VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis has removed Cdl. George Pell from his council of cardinal advisors, following his conviction in Australian court yesterday over sex abuse charges.
In a meeting in Rome today, the Holy Father formalized the removal of three members of the "Gang of Nine," his group of close cardinal advisors, removing Pell and Cdl. Francisco Errázuriz Ossa, a Chilean prelate accused of covering up sex abuse. Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, who recently retired from his see in Kinshasa and is 79 years old, is also leaving the council.
Tuesday, a jury returned a guilty verdict against Pell, the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy, after three days of deliberation. Pell had been charged with "historic sexual offenses" in 2017, after two altar boys accused him of molesting them during swimming trips in the 1990s, when Pell was bishop in Ballarat, a town northwest of Melbourne. Pell has consistently denied the charges. The pope granted Pell leave in 2017 to return to Australia to defend himself against the charges.
Spokesman Greg Burke refused to comment Pell's case, saying at the Wednesday press conference, "The Holy See has the utmost respect for Australian judicial authorities. We are aware that there is a suppression order in place by the court and we respect that order."
Errázuriz announced in mid-November that the pope was removing him from the Gang of Nine. Although he claimed his resignation was owing to the fact that "the term for which I was named had ended," the Chilean cardinal had been the subject of intense scrutiny for his part in allegedly covering up sex abuse by Fr. Jorge Laplagne, accused of abusing a minor in 2005.
Juan Carlos Cruz, a victim of Chilean priest Fr. Fernando Karadima, said of Errázuriz's announcement at the time, "Today, there is good news for survivors and bad news for Errazuriz, but it is good enough. So, I am very happy."
The removal of the cardinals now leaves the Gang of Nine at only six members. Replacements have yet not been announced.