The Vatican's Australian-born finance controller is being investigated in relation to multiple allegations of child abuse in his home country, police have said.
Victoria state Police Commissioner Graham Ashton told a Melbourne radio station programme that Victoria police had been investigating allegations against Cardinal George Pell, for more than a year.
"The investigation is ongoing," Mr Ashton told Radio 3AW, confirming an Australian Broadcasting Television report yesterday that detailed allegations of abuse dating from the 1970s to the 1990s in interviews with alleged victims.
In a statement issued in Rome yesterday, Cardinal Pell's office said he "refutes all the allegations made on the programme".
ABC said it has obtained eight police statements from complainants, witnesses and family members who were helping with the investigation.
The broadcaster said it received no information from police for its story.
Mr Ashton told Radio 3AW that police had referred the allegations against Cardinal Pell to the public prosecutor's office for advice on whether to prosecute.
The public prosecutor declined to comment to Reuters.
"While the Cardinal in no way wishes to cause any harm to those making allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse against him, the simple fact is that they are wrong," the statement from Cardinal Pell's office said, adding the Cardinal would continue to cooperate with any investigation.
The Cardinal was a priest in rural Victoria in the 1970s and 1980s before he became archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 and archbishop of Sydney in 2001. He took the Vatican role in 2014.
Earlier this year, he testified at an Australian government inquiry into institutional child abuse, where he said the Church made "catastrophic" choices by refusing to believe abused children, shuffling abusive priests from parish to parish and over-relying on counselling of priests to solve the problem.