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Vatican Cardinal likely to face two separate trials

Melbourne, May 2: Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s financial chief who has been accused with paedophilia and numerous other historical sexual offences, is likely to face two separate trials for the charges, an Australian court announced on Wednesday.
The 76-year-old faced a directions hearing in the County Court in Melbourne after being committed to stand trial on multiple charges on Tuesday, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Prosecutors agreed that he should face two trials, due to the fact he was charged over separate sets of allegations 20 years apart. It is likely the first trial will deal with allegations he committed sexual offences at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral in the 1990s when he was Archbishop of Melbourne. If the trials are split, a second jury would then hear allegations relating to offences committed in Victorian city of Ballarat in the 1970s when he was a young priest. Each trial is likely to run for about five weeks.
Defence attorney Robert Richter asked for the trials to be expedited due to Cardinal Pell’s age, and the age of witnesses in the cases whose “health is important”. He told the hearing a “critical witness” in the case relating to St Patrick’s Cathedral was now aged in his 80s. Cardinal Pell pleaded not guilty to the charges on Tuesday, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
Pope Francis had earlier granted Pell a “leave of absence” from his role at the Vatican as Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy. The trial against Pell began after the cardinal testified on three occasions as a witness before the Royal Commission which investigated Australia’s public and religious institutions and their involvement in alleged sexual abuse against minors. He stood down from his post as Vatican treasurer in June last year to fight the case in his home country of Australia after being charged by Victoria state police. The trial is the first time such a senior figure in the Holy See has faced criminal charges. (IANS)