Australian police on Thursday charged Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic official, with multiple sexual offenses.
Pell, who is Pope Francis’ chief financial adviser, is reportedly the highest-ranking official to be charged in the Catholic church’s longstanding sexual abuse scandal.
“Cardinal Pell is facing multiple charges … and there are multiple complainants,” Victoria police’s deputy commissioner Shane Patton said, according to The Guardian.
“[The charges were for] historical sexual assault offenses,” he added of Pell, who is the prefect of the secretariat for the economy, or the Vatican’s treasurer.
Some Twitter users on Wednesday voiced outrage over the charges against Pell, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing in the past.
The Guardian reported that the charges were served to Pell’s legal representatives in Melbourne on Thursday.
The charges have also reportedly been filed at Melbourne magistrates court, and Pell is now scheduled to appear there on July 18.
The Guardian also reported it is currently unclear which allegations Pell was charged for Thursday.
Detectives from Victoria police’s Sano taskforce reportedly interviewed Pell in Rome last October about the accusations against him.
The taskforce was reportedly established to probe allegations that emerged during a parliamentary inquiry in Victoria and the later royal commission.
Francis admitted last year that “it’s true, there is a doubt” when asked about the allegations circling Pell.
“We have to wait for justice and not first make a mediatic judgment a judgment of gossip because that won’t help,” he said. “Once justice has spoken, I will speak.”