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By Alexa Archambault
One of Pope Francis’ closest advisers has been charged with multiple counts of sexual assault offenses.
Cardinal George Pell, who is Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic and the pope’s chief financial adviser, was charged by Australia’s Victoria Police on Thursday, making him the most senior Vatican official to ever be charged with sexual assault.
“Cardinal Pell has been charged on summons, and he is required to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on the 18 of July this year for a filing hearing,” Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said in a press conference. “Pell is facing multiple charges in respect to historical sexual offenses, and there are multiple complainants relating to those charges.”
Pell rose up the Catholic ranks in Australia, serving as Archbishop of Melbourne and later Sydney.
During his tenure in those roles, he was accused of mishandling cases of clergy abuse and testified before Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Commission has since found that 7 percent of Catholic priests in Australia have allegedly abused minors. (RELATED: Aussie Writer Calls Church Sex Abuse ‘Catholic Extremism,’ Compares To Islamic Terrorism)
While Pell has been charged, he still has yet to face trial.
“It is important to note that none of the allegations that have been made against Cardinal Pell have, obviously, been tested in any court yet,” Patton said. “Cardinal Pell, like any other defendant, has a right to due process.”