A history of George Pell's steep road to success in the Catholic Church.

The third most powerful person in the Catholic Church, Cardinal George Pell has taken leave from his role as the Vatican’s finance chief to return to Australia to defend himself and says the charges only strengthen his resolve to clear his name.

The 76-year-old was charged by Victorian police on Thursday with historical sexual assault offences involving multiple complainants.

The former Ballarat priest and Melbourne and Sydney Archbishop has repeatedly denied the allegations during the two-year investigation.

A filing hearing will be held in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on July 26.

The 76-year-old was charged by Victorian police on Thursday with historical sexual assault offences involving multiple complainants. (Image: Getty)

Cardinal Pell's Career in the Catholic Church

  • June 8, 1941 - Born in Ballarat, Victoria
  • December 16, 1966 - Ordained a Catholic priest
  • 1971-1972 - Assistant priest Swan Hill parish
  • 1973-1983 - Assistant priest Ballarat East parish
  • 1973 - Shared St Alipius presbytery with Gerald Ridsdale (later revealed as Australia's worst pedophile priest) and Monsignor William McMahon
  • 1973-1984 - Episcopal Vicar for Education in Diocese of Ballarat; founding member of Catholic Education Commission of Victoria
  • 1981-1984 - Principal of Institute of Catholic Education (now merged with Australian Catholic University)
  • 1984 - Administrator of Bungaree parish
  • July 16, 1987 - Ordained as Auxiliary Bishop of Archdiocese of Melbourne
  • 1987-1996 - Parish priest Mentone, Bishop for the southern region of Melbourne
  • 1988-1997 - Chair of Caritas Australia
  • May 27, 1993 - Accompanies Ridsdale to his first court appearance. Later says it was a mistake to show priestly solidarity and he did not know full extent of Ridsdale's crimes
  • June 16, 1996 - Appointed Archbishop of Melbourne by Pope John Paul II
  • August 16, 1996 - Installed as archbishop
  • October 1996 - Announces Melbourne Response protocol for handling sex abuse complaints in Melbourne archdiocese
  • March 26, 2001 - Appointed Archbishop of Sydney by Pope John Paul II
  • May 10, 2001 - Installed as archbishop
  • April 21, 2003 - Awarded Centenary Medal by Australian government
  • September 28, 2003 - Elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals by John Paul II
  • 2005 - Appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia
  • February 2007 - Appointed to Council of Cardinals on Organisational and Economic Problems of the Holy See
  • April 2013 - Appointed by Pope Francis to group of eight cardinals to advise on government of the universal Church and study plan for revising Apostolic Constitution of Roman Curia
  • May 2013 - Gives evidence to Victorian parliamentary inquiry into handling of abuse by religious and other organisations in Melbourne
  • February 25, 2014 - Appointed as Prefect for the newly-created Secretariat for the Economy, Holy See
  • March 2014 - Gives evidence to Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney. The hearing focuses on the legal case of abuse victim John Ellis from Pell's time as Sydney archbishop
  • August 2014 - Second royal commission appearance via videolink from the Vatican, to Melbourne hearing on the Melbourne Response
  • February 29 - March 3, 2016 - Third royal commission appearance, via videolink from Rome hotel conference room to Sydney; hearing on church's handling of child abuse allegations in Ballarat diocese and Melbourne archdiocese.
  • June 29, 2017 - Charged with multiple, historical sex offences, set to appear in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on July 18.
  • December 13, 2018 - Pope Francis removed from his inner circle two cardinals including the Vatican’s economy minister, Australian George Pell.