Top Pope adviser arrives in Australia to face sex charges

Cardinal George Pell meets the media at the Vatican. The most senior Vatican cleric to ever be charged in the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal returned to Australia on Monday

Vatican finance chief, Cardinal George Pell, arrived back in Australia today, a month before he faces court over sex abuse allegations.

The 76-year-old was pictured this morning leaving Sydney Airport after landing from the Vatican via Singapore.

Cardinal Pell was previously archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney after having been a parish priest in his hometown of Ballarat Victoria.

Cardinal Pell says he is innocent, and is looking forward to fighting the charges in court.

Cardinal George Pell has taken a leave of absence as the Vatican's financial minister last month after being accused of a string of sexual assaults alleged to have taken place years ago.

Pell's office confirmed at that time that he participated in the interview and said he rejected "all and every allegation of sexual abuse".

Pell was spotted during a stopover in Singapore on the weekend and arrived in Sydney this morning. It is convened on 26 July before the court of Melbourne for a preliminary hearing.

Pell told an Australian government inquiry into institutional child abuse that the Church had made "enormous mistakes" and "catastrophic" choices by refusing to believe abused children, shuffling abusive priests from parish to parish and over-relying on counselling of priests to solve the problem.

"Tell her that I am", he replied.

There are multiple alleged victims but police have released no further details of the accusations.

It was his first appearance outside of Rome since police laid the charges. Australian Catholics were encouraged to pray for the cardinal...

"I repeat that I am innocent of these charges".

"The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me", he said, according to a transcript of his remarks published by ABC News.

"Cardinal Pell will return to Australia, as soon as possible, to clear his name following advice and approval by his doctors who will also advise on his travel arrangements".

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