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Cardinal Pell will plead not guilty, his lawyer confirms

Cardinal George Pell will plead not guilty to all accusations of sexual assault against him, his lawyer has told a Melbourne court.

The Vatican treasurer, 76, appeared in person for the brief administrative hearing on Wednesday.

Cardinal Pell is accused of historical assaults involving “multiple complainants”, police said last month.

The senior Catholic Church figure has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

He was not required to enter a plea on Wednesday.

“Cardinal Pell will plead not guilty to all charges, and will maintain the presumed innocence that he has,” Robert Richter, QC, told the court.

The filing hearing lasted about five minutes, according to local media. The next hearing will be on 6 October.

Cardinal Pell made no comment as he entered Melbourne Magistrates’ Court flanked by police officers.

Dozens of local and international media representatives gathered outside the court, along with security guards and other onlookers.

Last month, Cardinal Pell said he was “looking forward” to his day in court.

Cardinal Pell arrived in his home country earlier this month, after being granted a leave of absence from the Vatican to fight the charges.

Victoria Police said they had made the decision to charge the cleric after receiving advice from prosecutors earlier this year.

“Cardinal Pell is facing multiple charges and there are multiple complainants,” Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said last month.

Last month, Cardinal Pell told reporters: “I am innocent of these charges, they are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”

He said in a press briefing at the Holy See that he had been the subject of a “relentless character assassination”.

As Vatican treasurer, Cardinal Pell is considered to be the third-ranking official in the Catholic Church.

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