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In testimony to the commission in 2016, Pell conceded that he had made mistakes by often believing priests over people who said they had been abused.

And he vowed to help end a rash of suicides that has plagued abuse victims in Ballarat.

For Francis, they are a threat to his credibility, given that he famously promised a “zero tolerance” policy for sex abuse in the church.

Advocates for abuse victims have long railed against Francis’ decision to appoint Pell to the high-ranking position in the first place.

And he did not force the cardinal to resign, though Pell took an immediate leave of absence so he could return to Australia to fight the charges.

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She described her job in the preliminary hearing as “sifting the wheat from the chaff.”“Unless the credibility of a witness is effectively destroyed, credibility and reliability are matters for a jury,” she said.

The case places both the cardinal and the pope in potentially perilous territory.

For Pell, the charges are a threat to his freedom, his reputation and his career.

Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic will appear for the first time on Wednesday in the Victoria state County Court, where he has been ordered to stand trial at a date yet to be set.

Lawyers for Pell, Pope Francis’ finance minister, have been fighting the allegations since before he was charged last June with allegations of sexual abuse against multiples people in Victoria from the time he was a priest in his hometown of Ballarat in the 1970s until the 1990s, when he was archbishop of Melbourne.

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