Cardinal Pell to remain on leave after indictment - Vatican says

Cardinal George Pell: Vatican treasurer faces historical sexual offences trial

The 76-year-old was impassive throughout the hearing in Melbourne that ordered him to face a jury on "multiple" charges, although half of the allegations against him, including some of the most serious, were thrown out.

Until now, Pell has not had to formally enter a plea, although he instructed his lawyer from the outset to make clear he meant to plead not guilty.

A number of charges had been withdrawn during the committal hearing. Cardinal Pell's supporters and advocates for sexual abuse survivors were also in the room.

The Herald Sun said the magistrate found that the complainant behind at least one of the charges was an unsatisfactory witness.

Pell arrived by vehicle in front of the downtown court where more than 40 uniformed police officers were waiting to maintain order as media jostled to videotape and photograph him.

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Wallington said the biggest set of alleged offences that she had dismissed "could not have occurred in the time frame alleged".

"It is hard to see how a jury can convict on the evidence of a man who said he can't recall what he said a minute ago". The ruling makes him the most senior Catholic leader to face a jury.

But some of the alleged offending was at a swimming pool in Ballarat in Victoria in the 1970s and at Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral in the 1990s, the court heard.

Charges alleging Pell had continued to abuse the same complainant over a 12-month period at a church and another location were also struck out. Wallington committed Pell to trial on all but one of those charges. A decision on holding one or more trials will be made by a County Court judge.

At the end of the hearing the prosecution confirmed Pell had already handed in his passport and he was not allowed to leave the country.

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Throughout the committal Pell sat each day in courtroom 22 in the same seat, head bowed, sometimes taking notes, always dressed in the same outfit: black trousers, black shirt and a beige jacket.

Details of the charges have not been made public and legal cases in Australia are subject to strict contempt laws that bar journalists from reporting on aspects of criminal allegations.

Flanked by up to 40 police officers, Cardinal Pell had arrived at the court in a white sedan just after 9am.

"No matter what happens from here ... it is not going to be easy". "Justice must now take its course", he said in a statement.

"He will defend the remaining charges", the statement said.

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