Rev. Anthony Fisher is set to make a statement following the release of the final report into the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Rev. Anthony Fisher is set to make a statement following the release of the final report into the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. AAP Image - Joel Carrett

Cardinal Pell to return to Melbourne court

CARDINAL George Pell will return to court today in a bid to clear his name of historical sexual offences.

A month-long preliminary hearing is due to begin, after which a magistrate will decide if there is enough evidence to commit the cardinal to trial.

During the hearing, complainants in the case will be cross-examined by the cardinal's high-powered legal team.

It is estimated those cross examinations - to be held in a closed court, as with all complainants in sexual assault hearings - could last up to two weeks.

The exact charges being faced by Cardinal Pell remain unknown, but involve multiple complainants.

Last week, prosecutors confirmed they had dropped a charge following the death of one complainant.

After being charged last year, Cardinal Pell vehemently denied any wrongdoing and vowed to clear his name.

"I'm innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sex offences is abhorrent to me," he said.

"News of these charges strengthens my resolve, and court proceedings now offer me an opportunity, to clear my name and then return to my work in Rome.

"I am looking forward ­finally to having my day in court," he said.

Cardinal Pell is the most senior Catholic to ever be charged with sexual offences.

At the time he was charged he was working as the Vatican's finance chief, and considered the third-most senior Catholic.

Since returning to Australia from the Vatican, the Cardinal has been living in Sydney but has twice appeared in court in Melbourne.

On both occasions, he was mobbed as he entered court.

There has been a string of subsequent hearings but the cardinal has not been required to attend.

@s_deery