MELBOURNE, Australia — The first details of Cardinal George Pell’s upcoming trials on sexual abuse charges emerged Wednesday when he made an administrative appearance in court.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed the charges would likely be split into two separate trials which would take a total of between eight and 10 weeks to be heard.
Pell’s lawyer Robert Richter asked the judge to start the trials as soon as possible, due in part to the cardinal’s advanced age of 76. Prosecutor Mark Gibson asked for up to three months to prepare the case.
Judge Sue Pullen said she thought three months was a “little excessive.”
Pell left the court on bail ahead of his next hearing on May 16. Pullen rejected Richter’s application for Pell to be excused from attending court that day.
On Tuesday, Magistrate Belinda Wallington dismissed about half the charges that had been heard in a four-week preliminary hearing. The details of the allegations and the number of charges have not been made public.
Pell, 76, has pleaded not guilty.
He is the most senior Vatican official to be charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis. On Tuesday he officially denied charges of sexual abuse spanning decades after his lawyers failed to sway a court to dismiss them.
Lawyers for Pell, Pope Francis’s finance minister, have been fighting the allegations since before he was charged last June with allegations of sexual abuse against multiples people in Victoria from the time he was a priest in his hometown of Ballarat in the 1970s until the 1990s, when he was archbishop of Melbourne.