Police from the Australian state of Victoria announced on Thursday that Cardinal George Pell—Pope Francis’s top financial advisor and Australia’s senior Roman Catholic prelate—has been charged with sexual assault, the New York Times reports.
The Victoria police department’s deputy commissioner, Shane Patton, said during a press conference on Thursday, “Cardinal Pell is facing multiple charges…and there are multiple complaints.” Patton added that the allegations constitute, “historical sexual assault offenses.”
Pell was previously accused of mishandling child sex abuse cases brought against clergy members while he was the leader of the Archdioceses of Melbourne and Sydney. Allegations that he had sexually abused minors then began to surface, all of which he has repeatedly denied.
Last month, the Pell responded to news that authorities were considering bringing charges against him, saying, “I’d just like to restate my innocence. I stand by everything I’ve said a the Royal Commission and in other places.: On Thursday Pell issued a similar statement in which he, “strenuously denied all allegations.”
Patton said at the press conference that Pell will be required to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on July 18. Pell is the highest-ranking official in the Catholic Church to face criminal sexual assault charges in recent years.