Senior Vatican Cardinal George Pell to stand trial on sexual offence charges in Australia

George Pell Committal Hearing

George Pell arrives at court for committal hearing ruling. Screenshot from Guardian News video

The third most senior Vatican cardinal, Australia’s George Pell, is to stand trial on multiple sexual offence charges dating as far back as the 1970s. Melbourne Magistrate Belinda Wallington delivered her decision after a lengthy committal hearing in which several other charges were dismissed.

The cardinal has pleaded not guilty. He is third highest Vatican official, the Pope’s so-called ‘treasurer’ with responsibility for church finances. He is currently on extended leave.

It has been a long process so far. In 2016, Pell controversially declined to return home from Rome to give evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse about his role in alleged cover-ups by the Catholic church. Instead, he gave evidence by video link.

In a seemingly separate development, Pell was charged with historical sexual offences by Victoria police in June 2017.

Nevertheless, many have seen the issues as closely linked:

As he entered the court, Pell was greeted with shouts from the crowd of “Nowhere to hide today, George”.

The response on social media was swift. Many on Twitter were clearly on the side of child abuse victims and saw Pell as guilty. Some like Lauren Ingram see the committal as vindication of those who have spoken up:

In contrast, Callum Ramsay defended Pell’s right to a fair trial:

However, he was one of only a small number who offered their support online after the news broke.

Not everyone is sure that justice will prevail. This note of cynicism came from Rita El Daghl:

“Ming the Merciless” agreed:

The trial proceedings could take more than a year. There is speculation about Pell’s future in the church hierarchy, especially how much support he has from Pope Francis (@Pontifex);

However, the 76-year-old’s resignation from his Vatican post may not happen at this stage if this Vatican media release can be taken at face value:

For more background about Pell and the latest news, please see Global Voices’ previous coverage:

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