Australia's senior Roman Catholic prelate and one of Pope Francis's top advisers has been charged with sexual assault, police in the Australian state of Victoria said Thursday. Cardinal George Pell became the highest-ranking Vatican official in recent years to face criminal charges involving accusations of sexual offenses. Pope Francis has instituted several initiatives to foster greater accountability after abuse scandals involving Catholic leaders had shaken the church around the world. This case will test those initiatives. Pell is the finance chief of the Vatican and has repeatedly denied accusations of sexual assault against him.