Australian court hears further testimony in Cardinal Pell abuse hearing

Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, outside Rome's Hotel Quirinale, March 3, 2016. Credit: Alexey Gotovskiy/CNA.
Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, outside Rome's Hotel Quirinale, March 3, 2016. Credit: Alexey Gotovskiy/CNA.

.- New accusations were brought forward and others were dropped this week, during a pre-trial hearing in an Australian court regarding abuse allegedly committed by Cardinal George Pell.

The committal hearing for the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy took place at the Melbourne Magistrate Court, and will allow magistrate Belina Wallington to determine whether there is enough evidence for a jury trial.

The total number of charges brought against Pell are not public, although some of the charges previously brought against Pell date as far back as 1961. In January, a key charge against Pell was dropped after the complainant died of leukemia.

Pell, 76, is being represented by four lawyers and intends to plead not guilty if his case goes to trial. He has said that “the whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”

Last summer, Pope Francis granted Pell a leave of absence from his duties as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy while the claims are investigated. Pell is also a member of the Pope’s council of nine cardinal advisers.

Prosecutors said March 23 that some charges against Pell will be dropped because a witness is unable to testify because they are “medically unfit to give evidence.”

The court also heard this week from family members of people against whom Pell allegedly acted inappropriately at a public swimming pool, a showering area, a movie theater, and a church. Other witnesses denied having ever seen Pell acting inappropriately.

The Vatican has refrained from stating a judgement or opinion on the Pell case, pending the outcome of the investigations by the Australian court.

The cardinal's hearing, which began March 5, is scheduled to conclude March 29.

Tags: Australia, Clerical sex abuse, Child sex abuse, Cardinal George Pell