Two leading cardinals allegedly linked to sexual abuse have been dismissed from Pope Francis’ inner circle.
Australian Cardinal George Pell and Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz have been removed from the so-called C9 Council of Cardinals, an advisory body set up by Francis, the Vatican said on Wednesday.
Cardinal Pell, appointed head of the Vatican’s economic secretariat by the pope in 2014, has taken a leave of absence to fight allegations of historic sexual misconduct in Australia.
He is still officially in charge of Vatican finances, a position considered one of the most powerful in the Catholic hierarchy.
Francisco Errazuriz Ossa has been accused of covering up allegations against abusive priests in Chile.
Congolese Laurent Monsengwo, 79, who retired as archbishop of Kinshasa in November, is also leaving the advisory council.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke announced the changes on Wednesday, saying Francis had written to the three prelates individually in October, "thanking them for the work they have done for the past five years."
In a statement Mr Burke said the Pope had reflected on “the work, structure and composition” of the council after meeting council members in September.
At its latest meeting this week the advisory body discussed a variety of issues from Vatican spending constraints to the special conference on the protection of minors to be held at the Vatican at the end of February next year.
The Catholic Church has been hit by a series of child abuse scandals in recent years in countries including the US, Ireland, Chile and Ireland, with widespread allegations of cover-ups against clergy, including the pope himself.
Mr Errazuriz, long considered a close papal ally, was archbishop of Santiago from 1998-2010.
He has come under fire in recent months amid claims that he hid the crimes of Chile’s allegedly abusive priests including Fernando Karadima, who has been accused of a string of child sex offenses going back to 1984.
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Mr Pell, former archbishop of Sydney, has consistently denied allegations of sexual abuse made against him.
Specific details of the accusations have been suppressed by a court order and Australian law strictly limits reporting on proceedings.
Mr Burke declined to comment on court proceedings against 77-year-old Mr Pell saying: "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.”
The Pope created the council of cardinals after his election in 2013, tasking the group with helping him reform the Vatican bureaucracy known as the Roman Curia.
Mr Burke said the three cardinals would not be replaced immediately, leaving the council temporarily with six members.
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