Australian Cardinal George Pell. Pic/AFP
Australia's Victoria State Police on Thursday charged Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican's financial chief, with multiple sex offences and summoned him to court in July.
Pell, a senior representative of the Australian Catholic Church, is suspected of sexually abusing children when he served as a priest in the city of Ballarat (1976-80) and as archbishop of Melbourne (1996-2001), reports Efe news. Victoria Police confirmed in May that they were investigating the cardinal, who has maintained his innocence and attributed the accusations to a defamation campaign.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said the charges have been presented to Pell's representatives in Melbourne with a request for the cardinal to appear before a city court on July 18. "Cardinal Pell is facing multiple charges in respect to historical sexual offences and there are multiple complainants related to those charges," Patton said at a press conference.
In October 2016, Pell was questioned in Rome by Australian police officers about the accusations of sexual assault committed between 1976 and 2001. Among the allegations is the case of two men who claimed that Pell touched their genitals in the 1970s, while another man said he has seen Pell expose himself to young boys.
This is not the first time the senior Vatican official has been accused of sex offences. In 2002, a man claimed to have been sexually abused by the cardinal in 1961, when he was 12 years old and Pell was training to become a priest. Investigators acquitted Pell, who in February gave testimony via video conference to an Australian government commission probing child sexual abuses in religious, public and social organisations and institutions.