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Four-week court hearing for Cardinal Pell

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October 07, 2017

George Pell faces a long committal hearing to decide if he'll face trial on historical sex charges.

As many as 50 witnesses will give evidence during a hearing that will determine if Cardinal George Pell stands trial on historical sexual offence charges.

The highest-ranking Catholic official to be charged with sexual abuse has appeared in court for the second time, again for a brief administrative hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court.

The case will return to the same court for a four-week committal hearing beginning on March 5.

A magistrate will then decide if Pell stands trial in the Victorian County Court over the charges involving multiple complainants.

The defence will argue some of the allegations, those involving Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral, could never have happened.

"We propose to demonstrate to Your Honour that what was alleged was impossible," Pell's barrister Robert Richter QC told magistrate Belinda Wallington on Friday.

Mr Richter said the defence needed to cross-examine witnesses to probe their memories of events, even those who said they did not remember anything.

"There are an awful lot of witnesses. The prosecution must have a view about why they need so many of them," Mr Richter said.

Pell will plead not guilty to all charges, Mr Richter told the cardinal's first court appearance on July 26.

The latest court appearance by the third-most senior Vatican official again attracted intense media interest, although it was not as frenetic as the first occasion.

The former Sydney and Melbourne archbishop and Ballarat priest has taken leave from his position as Vatican treasurer to be in Australia to defend himself.

A further brief procedural hearing is expected to be held in mid-November, before the March committal.

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