Australia's Highest-Ranking Catholic Clergyman Charged in Sexual Abuse Case
Australian Cardinal George Pell, one of the Vatican's highest-ranking officials and a close adviser to Pope Francis, made his first appearance in an Australian courtroom on charges of sexual abuse.
The 76-year-old clergyman said nothing during a brief hearing in a Melbourne courtroom Wednesday that focused on routine legal matters. He has been charged with "historical sexual offenses" involving multiple people dating back several years.
Pell's lawyer, Robert Richter, told the court his client would plead not guilty to the charges, even though he was not required to do so during Wednesday's proceedings.
The Vatican's chief financial officer since 2014, Cardinal Pell is the most senior official in the Roman Catholic Church to face charges in the decades-long sexual abuse scandal involving clergy.
Pell has long been under fire for his handling of priests accused of sexually abusing children during his years as archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney. He was interviewed twice by a special commission formed to investigate allegations of sexual abuse committed by clergy, many of them dating back decades.
His next court date has been scheduled for October 6.
European Union Vows More Help for Italy in Migrant Crisis
The European Commission has pledged another $116 million to Italy to help its government manage the Mediterranean migration crisis.
Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said in a letter to Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni on Tuesday that he was setting up a special “contact team” in Brussels to coordinate with Italian authorities. The additional financial assistance the commission pledged to Italy raises by 12.5 percent the funds already allocated to Rome, to a total of over $1 billion.
Through the first half of 2017, nearly 84,000 migrants arrived in Italy by sea, 20 percent more than during the same period last year. Detention centers and temporary shelters that Italy has for migrants have reached their maximum capacity of 200,000 people, but there are many other migrants in the country working illegally.
Migrants from Nigeria, Bangladesh and Guinea account for most of those fleeing to Italy on the way to Europe.
Junker also promised to pressure Bangladesh to take back its migrants, since the vast majority of them are ineligible for international protection. He threatened to limit visas to Europe for travelers from the south Asian nation if there was no action by Dhaka.