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The Latest: Support group applauds charges against cardinal

Associated Press logo Associated Press 29/06/2017
FILE - In this July 15, 2008, file photo, Cardinal George Pell walks onto the stage for the opening mass for World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. Australian police charged a top Vatican cardinal on Thursday, June 29, 2017, with multiple counts of historical sexual assault offenses, a stunning decision certain to rock the highest levels of the Holy See. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this July 15, 2008, file photo, Cardinal George Pell walks onto the stage for the opening mass for World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. Australian police charged a top Vatican cardinal on Thursday, June 29, 2017, with multiple counts of historical sexual assault offenses, a stunning decision certain to rock the highest levels of the Holy See. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)

SYDNEY — The Latest on Vatican Cardinal George Pell being charged with sex offenses in Australia (all times local):

1:30 p.m.

An Australian support group for adult survivors of childhood abuse is applauding the decision by Australian police to charge a key Vatican aide with sexual assault.

Pam Stavropoulos, head of research at the Blue Knot Foundation, said on Thursday that the charges filed against Cardinal George Pell send a "powerful message" to both survivors of child sexual abuse and society as a whole. Stavropoulos says the filing of the charges shows that no one is above the law.

Police in the Australian state of Victoria said Pell has been summoned to appear in court next month to face charges involving "historical sexual assault offenses." No details have been disclosed.

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12:30 p.m.

The leading support group for victims of sexual abuse by priests has called on Pope Francis to speak out about sexual assault charges filed in Australia against a key Vatican aide.

Survivors' network SNAP noted that Francis had promised to work to "end the scourge of abuse by his clergy."

The statement issued from SNAP's headquarters in the United States called on anyone with additional information about the case of Cardinal George Pell to come forward. Police in the Australian state of Victoria said Thursday that Pell has been summoned to appear in court to face charges involving "historical sexual assault offenses." No details have been disclosed.

Pell was archbishop of Melbourne and, later, Sydney before Francis appointed him in 2014 to head the Vatican's new economy secretariat.

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11:35 a.m.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney says Vatican Cardinal George Pell will return to Australia to fight sexual assault charges as soon as possible.

The archdiocese statement released on his behalf said Pell "again strenuously denied all allegations" against him.

Victoria state police said earlier Thursday that Pell was being summonsed to face multiple charges of "historical sexual offenses," meaning offenses that generally occurred some time ago. Pell was ordered to appear in court on July 18.

The archdiocese statement says Pell "is looking forward to his day in court and will defend the charges vigorously."

Pell is planning to make a further statement in Rome later today.

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10 a.m.

Australian police have charged a top Vatican cardinal with multiple counts of historical sexual assault offenses in a stunning decision certain to rock the highest levels of the Holy See.

Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis' chief financial adviser and Australia's most senior Catholic, is the highest-ranking Vatican official to ever be charged in the church's long-running sexual abuse scandal.

Victoria state Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said police have summonsed Pell to face multiple charges of "historical sexual offenses," meaning offenses that generally occurred some time ago. Pell was ordered to appear in Melbourne Magistrates Court on July 18.

Pell has repeatedly denied all abuse allegations made against him.

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