Australian Cardinal George Pell, the highest-ranking Vatican official to be charged with sexual abuse, is due to face a jury hearing after almost two months of pre-trial aimed at determining whether the prosecution has enough evidence to conduct the jury hearing, the AFP reported.
Melbourne's Magistrate Belinda Wallington dropped most of the 76-year-old cardinal's charges but still decided that the case was strong enough to order a trial. The judge also ruled that Pell cannot establish contact with the prosecution's witnesses or leave the country.
At the end of the hearing, the judge asked the cardinal how he pleaded, to which Pell replied "Not guilty."
Pell has been a cardinal since 2003 and was the archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne from 2001 until 2014. In 2014, he was made the Vatican's treasurer and has thus been living in Rome. In 2016, Australian authorities commanded the official to return to stand trial. Previously in 2014, he declined to return to Australia to testify at the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Pell, citing ill health, instead testified over videolink.