Australian prosecutor drops a sex charge against cardinal

An Australian prosecutor on Friday withdrew a single charge against Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic cleric to face a sex prosecution.

The 76-year-old Australian cardinal will appear on Monday in a court in Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city where Pell was once archbishop, for the start of a monthlong preliminary hearing to determine whether prosecutors have sufficient evidence to warrant a jury trial.

Prosecutor Mark Gibson told the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday that one charge had been withdrawn.

Pope Francis' former finance minister was charged last year with offenses involving multiple complainants in his home state of Victoria. The exact details and nature of the charges have not been disclosed to the public, though police have described them as "historical" sexual assaults, meaning they are alleged to have occurred decades ago.

The potential penalties have not been made public.

Pell has vowed through his lawyers to fight the charges.

Pell has said he intends to continue his work as a prefect of the church's economy ministry once the case is resolved.