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George Pell Returns To Australia To Face Historical Sex Abuse Charges

He has said he is looking forward to his day in court.

10/07/2017 7:44 AM AEST | Updated 10/07/2017 10:00 AM AEST
Fairfax Media / Nick Moir
Cardinal George Pell landed at Sydney Airport at 5:55am on Monday morning.

Cardinal George Pell has returned to Australia on Monday morning, to face court over historical sex abuse charges.

Australia's highest ranking Catholic, Pell is due to face Melbourne's Magistrates Court on July 26 for a filing hearing over the charges. He maintains his innocence.

Pell touched down at Sydney Airport at 5:55am after flying from the Vatican via Singapore.

The Australian Federal Police, the NSW Police and private security contractors escorted him from Sydney Airport, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

The 76-year-old's return to Australia comes less than two weeks after Victoria Police announced they were charging Pell with "multiple" historical sex offences.

In 2016, Pell gave evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse from Rome via videolink, after saying he was too ill to travel to Australia.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Cardinal said Pell was grateful for the "numerous messages of support" he has been receiving.

"When he was told of the charges by Victoria Police Cardinal Pell said in Rome he totally rejected the allegations, was completely innocent of the charges and would return to Australia to vigorously defend himself and clear his name," the statement read.

"His return today then should not be a surprise."

Fairfax Media / Nick Moir
Cardinal George Pell leaving the airport escorted by police.

The spokesperson also noted that, following advice from his doctors, Pell broke up his journey from Rome to Australia over several days to avoid long-haul flights.

On the day the charges were announced, Cardinal Pell strenuously denied them in an address to the media in Rome, saying he is looking forward to appearing in court and accused the media of "a relentless character assassination".

"I'm looking forward, finally, to having my day in court. I'm innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me," he said.

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