SYDNEY, Australia — Australia’s senior Roman Catholic prelate, and one of Pope Francis’ top advisers, has been charged with sexual assault, the police in the Australian state of Victoria said on Thursday.
The prelate, Cardinal George Pell, became the highest-ranking Vatican official in recent years to face criminal charges involving accusations of sexual offenses. The case will test the credibility of Francis’ initiatives to foster greater accountability after abuse scandals that have shaken the church around the world.
“Cardinal Pell has been charged on summons, and he is required to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court” on July 18, Shane Patton, the deputy police commissioner, said at a news conference.
The charges were served on the cardinal’s legal representatives in Melbourne. Commissioner Patton said there were multiple complainants but refused to provide further details about them, including their ages.
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