Pope Francis has removed two prominent cardinals from his inner circle months after they were tainted by pedophile scandals and ahead of a Church-wide meeting on the "protection of minors" next year.
Australian Cardinal George Pell and Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz were both removed from the so-called C9 Council of Cardinals, an international advice body set up by Francis himself, the Vatican said yesterday.
The last time the C9 met in September, Errazuriz, who is accused of ignoring reports of abuse in Chile, and Pell, who faces charges in Australia related to historical child sexual offences, were both absent, and the council said it was considering restructuring. Despite being removed from the C9, Pell, 77, remains in charge of Vatican finances, the third most powerful position in the Roman Catholic Church.
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.
The meeting of bishops from around the world will also have to deal with some Asian and African bishops conferences who say they are not concerned by the "Western" abuse problem. Allegations in August from a conservative archbishop that the pope had ignored abuse suspicions concerning a prominent U.S. cardinal have triggered an internal investigation into Vatican archives ordered by Pope Francis.