Cardinal George Pell made a brief appearance at an Australian court on Wednesday in a preliminary hearing regarding the accusation of “historical sexual offences”.
His lawyer said he would plead “not guilty” to the charges leveled against him by police in the state of Victoria.
Escorted by Australian police, Cardinal George Pell made his way through a mass of journalists and protesters to arrive at a filing hearing before the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court.
Once inside, his lawyer Robert Richter told the court Cardinal Pell would plead “not guilty”.
He said, “For the avoidance of doubt and because of the interest, might I indicate that Cardinal Pell pleads not guilty to all charges and will maintain his presumed innocence that he has.”
Cardinal Pell remained silent throughout the six-minute hearing.
At a Vatican press conference in June, Cardinal Pell announced he would be taking a leave of absence from his role as Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy for as long as the trial would require.
In the Vatican’s official statement, Greg Burke, Director of the Holy See Press Office, said Cardinal Pell was going to Australia to comply fully with civil laws.
“Having become aware of the charges, Cardinal Pell, acting in full respect for civil laws, has decided to return to his country to face the charges against him, recognizing the importance of his participation to ensure that the process is carried out fairly, and to foster the search for truth,” Greg Burke said.
At the filing hearing, Magistrate Duncan Reynolds set a committal hearing for October 6.
During the committal hearing, a magistrate decides whether prosecutors have enough evidence to send a case to trial.
Cardinal Pell is not required to enter a formal plea until a magistrate determines whether there is cause for a full trial.
Source: Vatican Radio