Vatican's Pell case adjourned until March

Cardinal George Pell has arrived at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court for a brief hearing as he fights historical sexual offence allegations.

He will only be required to formally enter a plea if the court decides that there is enough evidence for him to stand trial.

Pell will plead not guilty to all charges, Mr Richter told the cardinal's first court appearance on July 26.

Friday's turnout is more low-key than Cardinal Pell's first court appearance on July 26 when a 100-strong group of national and worldwide media swarmed the cardinal as he walked to court.

The court heard that around 50 witnesses will give evidence and be cross-examined during the hearing scheduled to take place from 5 March.

Security was again tight at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on Friday morning, drawing a crowd of about 30 reporters who waited for hours ahead of Pell's anticipated arrival.

The magistrate may set a date for the committal hearing, which is likely to be held in early 2018. He is also now on a leave of absence as the economy minister of the Vatican until the case is resolved.

Many details concerning the allegations against Cardinal Pell can not be reported for legal reasons but they involve "multiple complainants".

Before taking a leave of absence, he was considered one of Pope Francis' top advisers.

The cardinal has always been a prominent figure in Australia's Catholic Church, serving first as the Archbishop of Melbourne and then the Archbishop of Sydney before heading to the Vatican. During a Vatican news conference last June when the charges were announced, Pell said, "I'm innocent of these charges".

He is the third most senior Vatican official and the highest-ranking Catholic official to be charged with sexual abuse.

According to figures in the report, 7% of Australian priests were accused of abusing children between 1950 and 2010.

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