Australian Cardinal George Pell looks on as he makes a statement at the Holy See Press Office, Vatican city on June 29, 2017 after being charged with historical sex offences in a case that has rocked the church. AFP / Alberto PIZZOLI
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A top adviser to Pope Francis was charged Thursday with multiple historical sex crimes in his native Australia, bringing a worldwide abuse scandal to the heart of the Vatican.Appointed Vatican economy minister by Francis, Cardinal George Pell is the highest-ranking church official to face such accusations.Pell's high-profile departure, even if temporary, puts pressure on a pontiff who has made compassion for the vulnerable his watchword, and has declared zero tolerance for a child abuse scandal that has beset the church for decades, but has struggled to overcome resistance in the church hierarchy and clergy.Pell was one of those whom Francis hand-picked to sit on a panel of nine cardinal-advisers to give a greater voice to the Church's global flock, and was the new broom he chose to reform the Vatican's opaque finances.Marie Collins, the top nonclerical member of the commission on abuse that Francis established in 2014, and its last remaining victim of priestly abuse, quit in frustration in March, citing a "shameful" lack of cooperation within the Vatican.She said the Vatican administration had even ignored a specific request from the pope that all correspondence from abuse victims should receive a response.Francis was impressed by Pell when they met in 2013 .After becoming pope, Francis, hoping to put an end to Vatican financial scandals, moved Pell to Rome to head a new ministry, the Secretariat for the Economy.
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