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Cardinal George Pell denies sex offences

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Cardinal George Pell denies sex offences
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Cardinal George Pell, the highest-ranking Vatican official to be charged with sex offences, has asserted his innocence.

A top advisor to Pope Francis, Pell says the Pontiff gave him a leave of absence to return to his native Australia to defend himself at a court case in July.

The Vatican economy minister is accused of multiple historical sex crimes. The Pope has pledged a zero tolerance policy for sex offences.

“All along I have been completely consistent and clear in my total rejection of these allegations. News of these charges strengthens my resolve, strengthens my resolve and court proceedings now offer me an opportunity to clear my name,” he said.

Pell was a country priest in the Australian state of Victoria in the 1970s. Police there have not specified the exact nature of the allegations.