STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Cardinal Pell living at Sydney seminary ahead of historic sex abuse hearing

An Australian seminary where Cardinal George Pell is living while he fights charges of historic sexual abuse says the...

Posted: Jan 10, 2018 12:19 PM
Updated: Jan 10, 2018 12:19 PM

An Australian seminary where Cardinal George Pell is living while he fights charges of historic sexual abuse says the top Vatican figure is "very much looking forward" to the start of a key court hearing, where dozens of witnesses will give evidence.

It had been unclear where Pell, the most senior cardinal in the history of the Catholic Church to face criminal charges, had been living since he was given a leave of absence from his role at the Holy See and returned to his native Australia.

Pell revealed to be living at Australian seminary as he awaits key court hearing

Evidence in the sexual abuse case will be heard from 50 witnesses

The spokesman for the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Homebush, Sydney confirmed to CNN the 76-year-old Cardinal was residing at the seminary, where 40 young trainee priests live and study as they prepare for their careers in parishes across the country.

"Cardinal Pell is now very much looking forward to the March hearing and his day in court," a spokesman for the seminary said. "He has repeatedly said he is innocent of all allegations made against him."s

In less than two months the Cardinal will face a four-week long committal hearing at Melbourne Magistrates Court where evidence will be heard from 50 witnesses.

At least two weeks of the hearing, which begins March 5, will be in closed court when complainants give evidence via video link. Once the hearing is completed, the magistrate will then decide if there is enough evidence to proceed to trial at a higher court.

At a news conference at the Vatican in June last year, Pell said he had been the victim of "relentless character assassination."

"I'm innocent of these charges, they are false," Pell said. "The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me."

Potential witness dies

The statement from the seminary comes after a man who made public accusations against Pell died, prompting speculation his death could affect the legal case.

Damian Dignan, who passed away on Saturday after a long illness, made the allegations in an interview for an ABC television documentary in 2016.

The Cardinal was charged by Victoria Police in June last year after a lengthy investigation by detectives from Sano Task Force based in Melbourne.

At a short court mention Wednesday it emerged that Pell's legal team had won their legal bid to get the ABC to hand over materials including interview footage from a hard drive and transcripts. The handover is part of two court orders by Pell's defense team to be able to examine materials.

"There has been a production to the registry of a hard drive containing footage and manuscripts," defense barrister Ruth Shann told the court.

It is believed the footage contains unedited interviews with some of the complainants in the case.

Another mention hearing for the Cardinal Pell case will take place at Melbourne Magistrates Court on February 9.

No official role at seminary

In response to CNN questions, the Archdiocese of Sydney released a statement with details of his living arrangements. It is the first time details of the Cardinal's daily life away from his post in Rome have been revealed as he awaits court.

The spokesman said the Cardinal does not play an official role at the seminary, where life for the trainee priests entails a strict daily regime of prayer and teaching.

"The seminarians are very comfortable with Cardinal Pell's presence," the spokesman said. "He (Pell) does not take part in ministry for the seminary, nor is he involved in mentoring or liturgy."

The seminary is run by Father Danny Meagher, a long time friend and supporter of Cardinal Pell.

"The Rector is very happy to have him stay on the property," the spokesman said.

Father Meager has spoken of his deep admiration for the Cardinal in the past.

"He's [Pell] probably the most respected English-speaking Bishop in the world which is extraordinary and to Australians we have no idea of that," Meager told the ABC in an interview in 2013 before Pell's move to Rome.

Father Meagher was formally the Director of Mission for CatholicCare after being personally asked to take the position by Pell when he was installed as Archbishop of Sydney in 2001.

The Cardinal has traveled twice from the Sydney seminary to two court mention appearances in Melbourne. Given his senior standing in Rome, his case has attracted huge media attention.

At the first hearing in July last year, his barrister Robert Richter told the court his client would be "pleading not guilty to all the charges."

Pressure to reform

In December the Catholic Church in Australia came under pressure from advocates with the release of the final report from Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The Catholic Church alone was the target of about 20 recommendations in what would amount to a radical shake-up of centuries of tradition and orthodoxy.

Of the survivors who reported being abused in a religious organization, 61.4% said it occurred in a Catholic organization.

The commissioners called upon the senior Australian Catholic leaders to urge the Vatican to consider major changes, including making celibacy voluntary and mandatory reporting of religious confessions.

At the time, Pope Francis responded by saying he would read the final report, according to the ABC.

However the suggested changes were met with resistance from the senior ranks in Australia.

Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart said that while he fully apologized on behalf of the church, he "couldn't" report any child abuse revealed to him inside a confessional.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 94021

Reported Deaths: 2846
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds6979155
DeSoto542555
Harrison374372
Jackson339967
Madison321286
Rankin319375
Lee261067
Jones242778
Forrest239570
Washington218171
Lafayette209239
Lauderdale2007124
Bolivar179565
Oktibbeha175450
Lamar163534
Neshoba1540103
Panola144527
Sunflower142144
Lowndes140357
Warren138150
Leflore137080
Pontotoc123616
Pike121348
Monroe118965
Scott116425
Copiah116333
Coahoma112827
Holmes109258
Marshall107615
Lincoln106853
Grenada106235
Yazoo103929
Simpson101443
Union97824
Tate95537
Leake94037
Adams92136
Wayne87721
Pearl River86750
Marion84133
Prentiss81517
Covington80922
Alcorn77511
Itawamba77021
Newton75923
Tallahatchie75718
George75113
Winston72519
Tishomingo66137
Chickasaw65624
Tippah64516
Attala64125
Walthall59425
Clay58117
Hancock56421
Jasper55515
Noxubee54315
Clarke53739
Smith52414
Calhoun50612
Tunica48113
Montgomery45520
Claiborne45216
Lawrence42512
Yalobusha41814
Perry40918
Quitman3755
Humphreys37315
Stone35711
Greene34617
Webster33113
Jefferson Davis32811
Carroll31212
Amite31110
Wilkinson30217
Kemper28615
Sharkey26312
Jefferson2439
Benton2201
Franklin1893
Choctaw1795
Issaquena1033
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 131988

Reported Deaths: 2304
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19123337
Mobile13122290
Montgomery8688173
Madison763075
Tuscaloosa7323114
Lee575159
Shelby571950
Baldwin508749
Marshall387943
Calhoun337439
Etowah336547
Morgan321426
Houston272722
Elmore255847
DeKalb237119
St. Clair224335
Walker224380
Talladega207726
Limestone200119
Cullman186218
Dallas174926
Franklin174528
Russell17312
Autauga169124
Lauderdale165333
Colbert160926
Escambia156425
Blount156014
Jackson151611
Chilton150227
Dale133343
Covington131127
Coffee12838
Pike11619
Tallapoosa113683
Chambers113242
Clarke105517
Marion94828
Butler91138
Barbour8387
Winston71612
Marengo70119
Lowndes64927
Pickens63814
Bibb63610
Randolph62212
Hale61528
Lawrence59220
Bullock59114
Geneva5814
Monroe5768
Cherokee56916
Clay5527
Washington54913
Perry5386
Wilcox53111
Conecuh52411
Crenshaw52331
Macon47820
Henry4754
Fayette4269
Sumter41819
Lamar3532
Choctaw34512
Cleburne3326
Greene30015
Coosa1653
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Scattered Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 66°
Columbus
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 68°
Oxford
Overcast
63° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 63°
Starkville
Scattered Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 64°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather