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Key dates in Cardinal George Pell's life and church career

Associated Press logo Associated Press 29/06/2017
Cardinal George Pell prepares to make a statement, at the Vatican, Thursday, June 29, 2017. The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney says Vatican Cardinal George Pell will return to Australia to fight sexual assault charges as soon as possible. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia) © The Associated Press Cardinal George Pell prepares to make a statement, at the Vatican, Thursday, June 29, 2017. The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney says Vatican Cardinal George Pell will return to Australia to fight sexual assault charges as soon as possible. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis' chief financial adviser, has been charged in his native Australia with multiple counts of "historical" sexual abuse, becoming the highest-ranking Vatican official ever charged in the church's long-running sexual abuse scandal. A look at the key events in Pell's life:

1941: George Pell is born in Ballarat, in the Australian state of Victoria.

1966: Pell is ordained a priest for the Ballarat diocese in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

1987: Pell is ordained an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

1996: Pell is appointed Archbishop of Melbourne and later sets up a compensation program for church sex abuse victims that some victims later criticize as inadequate, intimidating and a deterrent to lawsuits.

2001: Pell is appointed the Archbishop of Sydney.

2002: Pell steps down as Sydney Archbishop in response to allegations he sexually abused a boy more than 40 years earlier. Pell emphatically denies the allegation. An inquiry finds there is no way to establish the allegation, citing lack of evidence and questions about the accuser's credibility. Pell is reinstated.

2012: Australia's government announces a Royal Commission — the highest form of investigation in Australia — into how the Catholic Church and other institutions have responded to child sex abuse.

2014: Pope Francis appoints Pell to head the Vatican's new Secretariat for the Economy.

2014: The Royal Commission holds hearings on the case of John Ellis, a former altar boy abused by a priest in the 1970s. A court had dismissed his lawsuit, and the commission found that Pell accepted legal advice to vigorously fight his claim partly to discourage other victims from suing the church.

2014: Pell apologizes to Ellis at the Royal Commission: "I want to say to Mr. Ellis that we failed in many ways, some ways inadvertently, in our moral and pastoral responsibilities to him. I want to acknowledge his suffering and the impact of this terrible affair on his life."

2015: Pell offers to testify in person again before the Royal Commission. "Like everyone else I am horrified by the accounts that survivors have given in their evidence during the Ballarat hearings," Pell says in a letter to the commission. "I am also deeply saddened by the way Church authorities have failed in responding to these crimes."

2016: Pell testifies for the third time before the Royal Commission, this time via video link from Rome, after doctors deemed him too ill to fly to Australia. Over four days, Pell answers questions about his time as a priest in Ballarat and as an auxiliary bishop in Melbourne.

2016: Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton confirms police are investigating multiple allegations of sexual abuse against Pell.

2016: Two men say publicly that in the late 1970s, Pell — then a priest — touched them inappropriately at a pool in Ballarat. Pell vehemently denies the allegations.

2016: Victoria detectives fly to Rome to interview Pell.

2017: Victoria police charge Pell with multiple counts of "historical" sexual assault. Pell denies the allegations and says he is taking a leave of absence and will return to Australia to fight the charges.

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