Factbox: Cardinal George Pell, senior Vatican adviser, charged with sexual offences

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian police charged Cardinal George Pell, one of Pope Francis’s most senior advisers, with multiple historical sex offences on Thursday.

Australia’s Pell, the Vatican’s treasurer, is the most senior figure in the Catholic Church to face charges of committing sexual offences. He strenuously denies the charges.

Pell was charged by summons to appear before a Melbourne court on July 18. Here are some key facts about him:

- Pell was born on June 8, 1941, in the country town of Ballarat in the state of Victoria in Australia’s south.

- Pell was ordained as a priest in 1966 and served in his home state from 1971 to 1983, including 10 years in Ballarat.

- In 1996 he became the Archbishop of Melbourne, a role in which he helped establish the “Melbourne Response”, the Catholic Church’s first formal system of handling abuse complaints in Australia.

- He was appointed Archbishop of Sydney, Australia’s most senior Catholic role, in 2001.

- The following year, Pell stepped aside to face a closed hearing over abuse allegations dating back to the 1960s. The Church committee hearing the allegations found insufficient evidence to justify further action and Pell resumed his role.

- In 2003, Pell was made a cardinal.

- With the death of Pope John II in 2005, Australian media identify Pell as a contender to succeed him.

- Pell’s work at the Vatican increased by 2012 and he was asked by Pope Benedict XVI to join a high-ranking papal assembly. In 2013, Pope Francis appointed him to an eight-member group to advise on reforming the Church.

- In 2014 he was appointed Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, the Vatican’s first financial controller.

- Pell appeared at an Australian government inquiry into institutional child abuse in 20016, testifying via videolink from Rome because he was too sick to fly home. He said the Church made “catastrophic” choices by minimizing its response to, and covering up, abuse complaints.

- Australian police traveled to Rome later that year to interview Pell about the abuse complaints.

Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Paul Tait