A ring of police officers linked arms to shield Cardinal George Pell from about 100 journalists, photographers and camera operators who swarmed outside a Melbourne court.
The cardinal walked 100 metres from the office of his high-profile barrister Robert Richter QC to the front steps of the Melbourne Magistrates' Court through perhaps the largest press pack the city has seen.
Scores of local and international reporters, plus members of the public, queued from early on Wednesday to ensure a seat in the court room to witness Pell's appearance on historical sexual offences.
The demand for seats forced the court to allocate a second room, so more people could watch a live stream.
Pell, 76, arrived at the court just before 9am, after Victoria Police officers barged their way through the media pack making way for Pell and his lawyer.
Several photographers fell over on the steps as the cardinal entered the court building.
Reporters, photographers and camera operators were camped outside the court, as the charges against the world's third most powerful Catholic cleric attracted international attention.
CNN had eight people at the court and lawyers in the US monitoring their output. Al Jazeera had three staff on site, while Agence France-Presse, TVNZ, the Wall Street Journal, the London Telegraph and Reuters were all in attendance.
Phil Nagle, an abuse survivor, said the huge turnout was to be expected.
"Everyone wants to see the cardinal get a fair and just trial; that's what we really want, to see him have his day in court," he told AAP.
The court had said it would operate on a "business as usual" basis, while Victoria Police said Pell was being treated the same as any other citizen during the investigation.
But when Pell left the court, the ring of officers again protected him through the huge media crush, while police motorcycles blocked traffic on Lonsdale Street.
Protesters yelled insults at Pell, while supporters shouted about his "innocence".
Up to 20 police officers surrounded the cardinal as he made the short walk back into his lawyers' office, which he left about an hour later, battling a much-reduced media pack.