MELBOURNE, Australia — New accusations were brought forward and others were dropped this past 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 Cardinal Pell are not public, although some of the charges previously brought against him date as far back as 1961. In January, a key charge was dropped after the complainant died of leukemia.
Cardinal 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 him a leave of absence from his duties as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy while the claims are investigated. Cardinal 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 due to being “medically unfit to give evidence.”
The court also heard this week from family members of people against whom Cardinal Pell allegedly acted inappropriately at a public swimming pool, a showering area, a movie theater and a church. Other witnesses denied having ever seen Cardinal Pell acting inappropriately.
The Vatican has refrained from stating a judgment or opinion on the 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.