• Cardinal says in statement he is victim of ‘relentless character assassination’
  • Pell is highest-ranking figure to be charged in church’s sex abuse scandal

Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic and the third highest ranking official in the Vatican, is taking leave from the Holy See to return to Australia to face historical sexual assault charges.

Pell confirmed on Thursday in Rome that he had spoken to Pope Francis and been granted leave.

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