Pope Francis has removed Australia’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, from his inner circle in a restructure of his Council of Cardinals.
Pell’s position as the financial controller of the Vatican makes him the third most powerful person in the Vatican. He is facing prosecution in Australia for historical sexual crimes and has taken leave from the position. The homosexual/pedophile has strenuously denied the allegations.
The removal of Pell, 77, from the council does not necessarily affect his treasury position, which he technically still holds, and a Vatican spokesman would not comment further.
Two other council members – the newly retired archbishop Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, 79, and Chile’s Francisco Errázuriz Ossa, 85, who has been accused of concealing abuse while archbishop of Santiago – were also removed from the group of nine on the council, which is known as C-9.
A Vatican spokesman said Francis had written to the prelates “thanking them for the work they have done over these past five years”.
A key role of C-9, formed in 2013, has been to reform the bureaucracy of the Vatican and determine its policies and missions going forward.
But Francis has been under increasing pressure to restructure C-9 in the wake of growing concerns about child sexual abuse and other scandals in the church, with many angered that men accused of serious crimes were determining the future direction of the church. The fact many of C-9’s members are elderly has also been a concern.