Vatican treasurer Cardinal Pell to face trial on historical abuse charges

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(CNN) — Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell will face trial on charges of historical sexual abuse, a Melbourne magistrate announced on Tuesday.

While several of the more serious charges against Pell were dropped, Magistrate Belinda Wallington announced the cardinal would still be committed to trial.

The 76-year-old cardinal was facing multiple charges of historical sex assault offenses from a number of complainants. He has vigorously denied all charges.

The magistrate's decision is still being read with the possibility of additional charges.

One of the country's most senior Catholic figures, Pell arrived at Melbourne Magistrate's Court early Tuesday, accompanied by his lead barrister, Robert Richter QC, as dozens of police sought to keep media and protesters at bay.

During a month-long committal hearing in March, dozens of witnesses including a number of accusers gave evidence against Pell.

Pell was charged last June and given leave by Pope Francis from the Vatican to contest the charges in his native country. He is the most senior figure in the Holy See to ever face criminal charges.

The cardinal has repeatedly denied the allegations against him. After the announcement of the charges was made in June 2017, he said the idea of sexual abuse was "abhorrent" to him.

The defense had argued strongly for the case to be dropped, saying it would be a "waste of public money, time and effort." His attorney, Richter, said the allegations were an attempt to destroy the cardinal's reputation.

When allegations of historic sexual abuse by Cardinal Pell first came to light in 2016 the Pope stressed that "we must avoid a media verdict based on gossip."

"It's in the hands of the justice system and one cannot judge before the justice system," he said. "After the justice system speaks, I will speak."

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