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  • Vatican Treasurer Cardinal George Pell is surrounded by Australian police as he leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court in Australia, October 6, 2017.

    Vatican Treasurer Cardinal George Pell is surrounded by Australian police as he leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court in Australia, October 6, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Published 12 December 2018
Opinion

Despite being removed from the C9, Pell remains in charge of Vatican finances, the third most powerful position in the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Francis has removed two prominent cardinals from his inner circle months after they were tainted by pedophile scandals.

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Australian Cardinal George Pell and Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz were both removed from the so-called C9 Council of Cardinals, an international advisory body set up by Francis himself, the Vatican said Wednesday.

Pell has taken an indefinite leave of absence from his job as head of the Secretariat for the Economy, one of the most powerful posts in the Vatican, to defend himself from prosecution for historical child sexual offenses in Australia.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said: "The Holy See has the utmost respect for Australian judiciary. We are aware that a suppression order is in place (on media reporting on judicial procedures) and we intend to respect it."

Asked if Pell, 77, was still the economy minister, Burke suggested he was, saying there had been no announcement to the contrary.

The other member removed from the so-called C-9 — a group of nine cardinals that meets periodically with the pope in Rome — is Francisco Javier Errázuriz of Chile.

Errázuriz, 85, the former archbishop of Santiago, has been accused by abuse survivors in Chile of discrediting victims and not investigating their cases, which he denies.

Chile’s sexual abuse scandal prompted all of the country’s 34 bishops to offer their resignation to the pope who has so far accepted seven.

A third C-9 cardinal, Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, 79, of the Democratic Republic of Congo, was also leaving the group, Burke told a briefing on the C-9's latest meeting, which ended on Wednesday. None of the three attended.

Burke said the six remaining members - from Italy, Honduras, the United States, and India, would continue to advise the pope. There were no immediate plans to appoint new members, he said.

The Church has been hit by a series of child abuse scandals in recent years, with widespread allegations of cover-ups, including against the pope himself.

The pope clarified the composition of the C9 ahead of a February meeting with leaders of bishops' conferences from around the world dealing with the "protection of minors," to which victims of priest sex abuse have been invited.

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