In the abuse case against Cardinal George Pell, prosecutors have withdrawn one of several charges after the death of a key witness. A four-week hearing begins Monday.
This is what Australian media reported on Friday. Damian Dignan had launched the investigation against Pell in an interview in March 2016. He accused the now 76-year-old of indecently touching him in a Ballarat swimming pool in the 1970s.
Office as financial administrator rests
The accusation is one of several leveled against Pell. However, neither the exact number of lawsuits nor their content has been made public yet. When he was indicted in July 2017, the cardinal had vigorously maintained his innocence.
He has informed Pope Francis of the developments and will travel to Australia in consultation with his doctors and lawyers "to clear my name," Pell said. Pope Francis had suspended Curia Cardinal George Pell, who is suspected of abuse, from his post as Vatican finance chief. This is being done so that Pell can stand trial in a court in his native Australia, a Vatican statement said.
In 2014, Pope Francis had appointed the then Archbishop of Sydney as prefect of the newly created Vatican Secretariat for the Economy. Pell also serves on the council of cardinals that advises the pope on curia reform.
Abuse allegations against Pell since 2002
Accusations of sexual abuse against Pell had also arisen earlier. In 2002, Pell was acquitted of abuse allegations by an investigative commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne for lack of evidence. A man had accused Pell of sexually abusing him as a twelve-year-old at a Catholic youth camp.
The cardinal had been questioned by Australian police officers in Rome in October 2016 about abuse allegations. Cardinal Pell has also long faced accusations of involvement in abuse cover-ups as a priest in Ballarat and later as Archbishop of Melbourne.
In his testimony before the state abuse commission, Pell had vigorously denied accusations of covering up abuse cases. As Archbishop of Melbourne, however, Pell had also set the first standards for dealing with abuse cases with the "Melbourne Response".
Four-week hearing on Monday
A four-week hearing begins Monday in a Melbourne court, at the end of which a decision will be made on whether to open a main trial against Pell.
Another case against a high-ranking church official is pending in Australia. Archbishop Philip Wilson (67) of Adelaide is accused of failing to report abuse cases to police.