MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Silent but defiant, Cardinal George Pell made his first court appearance in Australia on Wednesday on charges of sexual abuse, vowing through his lawyer to fight the allegations that have rocked Rome and threatened the pope’s image as a crusader against abusive clergy.

Pell, Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic and Pope Francis’ top financial adviser, is accused of sexually abusing multiple people years ago in his Australian home state of Victoria, making him the most senior Vatican official ever charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis. Details of the charges have yet to be released to the public,

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