The hearing will determine whether there is enough evidence against Australian Cardinal George Pell to go to trial. Pell is the most senior Vatican official to be charged with sexual abuse.
Cardinal George Pell appeared before the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Monday for the start of a month-long hearing to test whether there is enough evidence to try him.
Pell, the Vatican's finance chief and a senior aide to Pope Francis, took leave to defend himself in court. He faces historical sexual offence charges involving multiple complainants.
Local media has reported that as many as 50 witnesses, including former choirboys, are expected to provide evidence.
Testimony from the alleged victims will likely not be made public due to Victoria state legal practices involving sexual offense cases.
Most senior Vatican official to be charged
Magistrate Belinda Wallington, who is presiding over the hearing, will decide whether to dismiss the charges or whether Pell's case should proceed to a criminal trial in a higher court.
Even if she decides the evidence is not sufficient to proceed, public prosecutors can still move to take Pell to trial.
Pell is the most senior Vatican official ever to be charged with sexual abuse. The 76-year-old has consistently denied the allegations against him and is expected to plead not guilty.
Pell was appointed the Vatican's finance chief post despite criticism from victim advocacy groups. A number of sex-abuse scandals have dented the Catholic Church's image across the globe.
Critics argue that the Church has done little to bring perpetrators to justice, despite Pope Francis pledging "zero tolerance" in 2014 on sexual abuse.
rs/cmk (AP, dpa)