A high-ranking Buddhist monk has faced court over sexual abuse charges allegedly perpetrated against three children he met through his role at a Melbourne temple.

Ven Vijitha Naotunne, 68, appeared in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday dressed in traditional orange robes after being charged with 13 offences dating back to the mid-1990s.

He is the chief incumbent at the Dhamma Sarana Sri Lankan Buddhist temple, in Melbourne’s southeast, and has run a Sunday school attended by hundreds of children.

He arrived in Australia in 1993 and served as a resident monk at a Springvale temple before moving to the Keysborough temple in 2001, according to Dhammma Sarana’s website.

Naotunne provides regular Buddhist services at the temple, including “a very successful Sunday School”, which is attended by more than 300 children.

“His rapport and popularity with children have been exceptionally noteworthy,” the website said. Foreign media