Vatican Cardinal Pell faces Australian court on sex charges

Cardinal George Pell, rear center, Australia's highest-ranking Catholic and Pope Francis' top financial adviser, leaves Melbourne Magistrates' Court Wednesday, July 26, 2017. Pell, the most senior Vatican official ever charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis, made his first court appearance in a scandal that has stunned the Holy See and threatened to tarnish the pope's image as a crusader against abusive clergy. (AP Photo/Kristen Gelineau)

 

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Cardinal George Pell has made his first court appearance in Australia on charges of sexual abuse and vowed through his lawyer to fight the allegations that have threatened the pope’s image as a crusader against abusive clergy.

Pell is the most senior Vatican official ever charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis.

He did not enter a plea to the charges alleging he sexually abused multiple people years ago in his home state of Victoria.

But his lawyer told the court Wednesday that the cardinal plans to formally plead not guilty at a future court date.

As Pell left the courthouse, a dozen Victoria state police officers formed a protective circle around him, pushing their way through a media scrum as protesters and supporters shouted at the cardinal.

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