Cardinal George Pell has been ordered by a magistrate to stand trial for historical sexual offence charges.
Melbourne magistrate Belinda Wallington on Tuesday found there is evidence of sufficient weight against Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric for him to stand trial on some allegations.
Several other charges against the 76-year-old were struck out.
Pell has strenuously denied all charges, and Tuesday’s committal comes after a four-week-long hearing to determine whether the allegations would go to trial in the County Court.
Pell, who took leave from his position as Vatican treasurer to fight the charges, was in court to hear the decision.
The magistrate is continuing to deliver her findings.
Pell, who took leave from his position as Vatican treasurer to fight the charges, faced a four week-long pre-trial committal hearing in March to determine if he will stand trial.
During the hearing, the defence repeatedly attacked the police investigation into Pell, which began in March 2013 before any crime had been reported.
In April the defence and prosecution returned to Melbourne Magistrates Court for further legal arguments. Pell was excused from attending.
Defence barrister Robert Richter QC argued Pell had been targeted as Australia’s most senior Catholic amid hatred and public furore over the church’s response to clergy abuse.
Mr Richter suggested some of the allegations were the product of fantasy, mental problems or pure invention.
He also suggested claims about Pell made in a television program led to other people making complaints against the cardinal, creating a kind of public furore.
But crown prosecutor Mark Gibson SC said the defence attack on the complainants’ credibility amounted to nothing more than “a conflict in the evidence”, which was up to a jury to decide.
Mr Gibson said there was no evidence to back the defence theory that Pell was being targeted because the church had failed to stop sexual abuse.
On December 13, 2018 it was announced Pope Francis has removed from his inner circle two cardinals including the Vatican’s economy minister, Australian George Pell.