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Vatican cardinal to stand trial on historical sexual offenses

Australian Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Magistrates Court in Melbourne, Australia, on May 1, 2018. (Joe Castro/AAP Image via AP)

SYDNEY (Kyodo) -- An Australian court on Tuesday committed Cardinal George Pell, the highest-ranking Vatican official ever to face sexual offense charges, to stand trial over multiple allegations of historical sexual abuse.

    The Vatican's finance chief pleaded not guilty, according to local media, after magistrate Belinda Wallington threw out several charges, including the most serious allegations against the 76-year-old Australian, following a monthlong committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court.

    Last year, Victoria Police charged Pell with multiple sexual offenses from multiple complainants, dating back to when Pell was a priest in the regional Victorian town of Ballarat in the 1970s.

    Prior to Tuesday's decision, Wallington had held a monthlong committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court.

    Pell has denied all allegations against him, previously describing them as a "relentless character assassination."

    Pope Francis has so far declined to comment on the allegations made against Pell, saying, "Once justice speaks, I will speak."

    Pell's case has sent shockwaves through the Catholic Church, which has already been hit by a series of sexual abuse scandals in recent years.

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