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Pell has repeatedly denied all abuse allegations made against him.

The Catholic Church in Australia, which issues statements on Pell's behalf, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the charges.“It is important to note that none of the allegations that have been made against Cardinal Pell have, obviously, been tested in any court yet,” Patton told reporters in Melbourne.

The vast majority of convictions were in prostitution solicitation incidents in which it is unknown whether any contact beyond a conversation or an exchange of money was initiated, the researchers said.

Patton said there are multiple complainants against Pell, but gave no other details on the allegations against the cardinal.

Pell was ordered to appear in Melbourne Magistrates Court on July 18.

“Cardinal Pell, like any other defendant, has a right to due process.”The charges are a new and serious blow to Pope Francis, who has already suffered several credibility setbacks in his promised “zero tolerance” policy about sex abuse.

For years, Pell has faced allegations that he mishandled cases of clergy abuse when he was archbishop of Melbourne and, later, Sydney.

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