MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The conviction and sentencing of Cardinal George Pell represent a remarkable downfall for the man who was Pope Francis' former finance minister and third-highest ranking Catholic in the Vatican.
Pell, the most senior Catholic to be convicted of child sex abuse, was sentenced Wednesday to six years in prison for molesting two choirboys in a Melbourne, Australia, cathedral more than 20 years ago.
He was convicted by a unanimous jury verdict of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and indecently dealing with the boy and the boy's 13-year-old friend in the late 1990s, months after becoming archbishop of Melbourne.
Pell was appointed Archbishop of Sydney in 2001, and Pope John Paul II made him a cardinal in 2003. Francis appointed Pell to the powerful position of Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in 2014.
Francis removed Pell as a member of his informal Cabinet in October, shortly before he was convicted of the abuse. He remained prefect of the Vatican's economy ministry, but his five-year term expired last month.
Pell also is being investigated by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which has the power to remove him from the priesthood.