The most senior Catholic in Australia has been charged with multiple, historical sexual assault offenses, Victoria State police said on Thursday.
Cardinal George Pell, the chief financial adviser for Pope Francis, is now the highest-ranking Vatican official to ever be charged as part of the church’s sexual abuse scandal. He is the third most powerful figure in the Vatican behind the Pope.
Specific details about the multiple complaints brought against Pell were not detailed by Victoria State Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton.
“The charges were today served on Cardinal Pell’s legal representatives in Melbourne and they have been lodged also at the Melbourne Magistrates Court. Cardinal Pell is facing multiple charges in respect of historic sexual offences,” Patton said, according to news.com.au.
“Historic sexual offenses," references offenses that generally occurred some time ago.
It was previously alleged that Pell abused as many as 10 minors by “both grooming and opportunity,” news.com.au reported. The alleged victims now range in age from their late 20s to early 50s.
Despite being Australia’s most senior Catholic, Pell, 76, is based in the Vatican, where he is serving as prefect of the secretariat of the economy.
Pell has repeatedly denied the abuse allegations. He’ll have to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates Court for a filing hearing on July 18.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.