MELBOURNE, Australia, July 26, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal George Pell made a brief appearance in Melbourne Magistrates Court shortly after 8:30 a.m. (local time) today to answer charges of multiple historic sex offenses.
Although Pell was not required to enter a plea, his lawyer, Robert Richter, QC, told the packed room, “For the avoidance of doubt and because of the interest, might I indicate that Cardinal Pell pleads not guilty to all charges and will maintain his presumed innocence that he has.”
The hearing lasted only six to eight minutes, just long enough to set a deadline in September for Pell’s legal team to receive evidence and to establish October 6 as the date of the cardinal’s next court appearance. Pell was not required to attend this first hearing, but he voluntarily flew from Rome to do so.
The world’s media was waiting for him. A throng of journalists jostled outside the courthouse, and Pell had to be escorted through their yelling ranks by a dozen police officers. A smaller contingent of protesters and supporters was on hand to shout abuse or encouragement.
Some protesters were masked, and placards and holy pictures were held aloft. Most of the 60 spectators squeezed into the courtroom were journalists. Tony Wright of the Sydney Morning Herald observed that a crowd of reporters stretched “30 metres” (98.5 feet) into the lobby. According to Melbourne’s Herald Sun, a second room was opened so that spectators could watch video feed of the proceedings.
Pell sat in the front row of the courtroom wearing a black suit and his white clerical collar. The prosecutor, Andrew Tinney, SC, warned media that they were forbidden from speculating about the strengths, weaknesses, or outcome of the case and whether or not Pell can receive a fair trial. He also asked for “fair and accurate reporting.”
The Australian media’s hostility to Pell as a figurehead of conservative Catholicism is well-known. Even after the prosecutor’s warning, the anti-Catholic contempt of journalists like Tony Wright was palpable:
“Pell is a big man, once signed as a ruckman [football player] for Richmond, though the church got to him before he played,” Wright wrote in the Morning Herald. “But as he entered the court, he was stooped, looking straight ahead, his body slumping and almost too large for the chair he was allocated. He rested his black overcoat on one knee and the hand with the golden ecclesiastical episcopal ring, for that is what this gift from a Pope is called, on the other. The hand was steady.”
This is what a cardinal’s ring is called on Wikipedia.
The cardinal did not speak during the hearing. When it was over, he and his lawyer made their way through the media scrum once again. Melbourne’s Herald Sun observed that Pell’s walk to his lawyer’s offices was almost longer in duration than his court appearance.
The details of the charges against Pell have still not been explained to the public.