Cardinal's alleged sex victims testify in Australian court

Court Watch

The alleged victims of the most senior Vatican official ever charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis began giving testimony to an Australian court on Monday.

Australian Cardinal George Pell wore his clerical collar for the first day of the hearing in the Melbourne Magistrate Court to determine whether prosecutors have sufficient evidence to put him on trial. The committal hearing is scheduled to take up to a month.

Pope Francis' former finance minister was charged in June of last year with sexually abusing multiple people in his Australian home state of Victoria. The details of the allegations against the cardinal have yet to be released to the public, though police have described the charges as "historical" sexual assault offenses - meaning the crimes that are alleged to have occurred decades ago.

Monday's testimony of alleged victims was suppressed from publication and the courtroom was closed to the public and media.

Their testimony, which is expected to take up to two weeks, proceeded for two hours before the court was adjourned until Tuesday morning.

Prosecutor Mark Gibson had earlier told Magistrate Belinda Wallington that the complainants would give evidence by a video link.

Wallington gave permission for one of complainants to be accompanied by what Gibson described a "support dog" while giving evidence.

Defense lawyer Robert Richter questioned whether the dog was necessary, saying, "I always thought that dogs were for children and very old people."

Wallington replied, "No, they're also there for vulnerable and traumatized people."

Pell was flanked by police and defense lawyer Paul Galbally as he walked through a large group of media and into the court security screening area. He was silent as he entered, though he indicated to a security guard he had no objection to the routine security pat-down of Pell's light-colored jacket, black shirt and black trousers.