Court hears some alleged historical offences by Vatican's Pell were at a pool, cinema

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Some alleged historical sexual offences by Vatican treasurer George Pell took place at a movie theater and at a swimming pool, a court heard on Monday during a hearing to determine whether to send the case against the Australian Cardinal to trial.

Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell is watched by a security guard and an Australian police officer as he leaves Melbourne Magistrates' Court in Australia, March 19, 2018. AAP/Stefan Postles/via REUTERS

Pell, 76, is the most senior Catholic official worldwide to face such charges, the details of which have not been made public.

His lawyers have said at previous administrative hearings he will plead not guilty to all charges. Pell is not required to enter a formal plea unless a magistrate determines there is cause for a full trial.

The Melbourne Magistrates’ Court heard at the start of the third week of pre-trial hearings that one alleged offense had taken place about 40 years ago at a movie theater in a regional area in the state of Victoria.

However, a person who was a projectionist at the cinema at that time and knew Pell from attending church told the court that he did not recall ever having seen him at the theater.

Pell’s lawyer also mentioned an alleged offense more than four decades ago at a swimming pool.

A witness told the court that he had seen Pell at the pool “on numerous occasions”, but had never seen anything untoward nor experienced anything improper.

“For me personally, no. I don’t recall it ever being inappropriate,” he said. His name cannot be disclosed as it might help identify Pell’s accusers.

At the hearing last week, the court heard of alleged offences at other locations in Victoria state.

Australian police last year summoned Pell to return to his home country to appear on charges of historical sexual offences from multiple complainants. He is on a leave of absence from his Vatican role as Pope Francis’ economy minister, which he started in 2014.

The pontiff has said he will not comment on the case until it is over.

The pre-trial hearing is scheduled to go on until the end of March.

Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Michael Perry and Neil Fullick