Hearing begins over prominent Cardinal's alleged sex abuse

A four-week hearing has begun in Melbourne to decide if one of the Pope's closest advisors will face trial over sexual abuse.

Cardinal George Pell is the most senior member of the Catholic Church ever to be charged with sexual abuse. He denies any wrongdoing, and his lawyer says police got their investigation wrong. 

On Monday, Cardinal Pell heard directly from the complainants who have accused him of historical sex offences as they gave evidence for the first time. 

Their testimony, which will be used to determine if there's enough evidence for a trial, was suppressed from publication.

They spoke behind closed doors at Melbourne's Magistrate Court, giving evidence via video link. It was the first time they faced cross examination, as Pell's defence lawyers put their claims to the test.

Robert Richter QC alleged in court that police didn't follow their own procedure on how to investigate "prominent people".

"We say that wasn't followed because there was a presumption of guilt," he said.

Scandal has rocked the Catholic Church many times, but has never stretched as far as this. Pell is the Vatican treasurer, considered to be its third most powerful representative.

He's always maintained his innocence and returned to court voluntarily to fight the charges.

Every Catholic expects a day of judgement, but Cardinal Pell's will arrive in just a month.