Vatican says cardinals linked to child sex abuse scandals no longer Pope's advisers

Pope Francis has removed two cardinals who have been hit by scandals from his group of close advisers, the Vatican said on Wednesday.

Chile's Javier Errazuriz, Australian George Pell deny allegations they face

Cardinal George Pell, shown surrounded by Australian police in Melbourne in 2017, was once the Vatican's treasurer. He has been accused of historic sexual offences. (Mark Dadswell/Reuters)

Pope Francis has removed three cardinals from his informal cabinet, two of whom have been implicated in the Catholic Church's sex abuse and cover-up scandal.

The Vatican said Wednesday that Francis in October had written to Chilean Cardinal Javier Errazuriz, Australian Cardinal George Pell and Congolese Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, thanking them for their five years of service on the so-called Group of Nine, or C-9.

Errazuriz, 85, has been accused by Chilean abuse survivors of having covered up for predator priests while he was archbishop of Santiago, a charge he has denied. Pell, 77, took leave from his job as the Vatican's economy minister to stand trial in his native Australia on historic charges of sex abuse, allegations he denies.

Pasinya hasn't been implicated in the scandal, but at age 79, he recently retired as archbishop of Kinshasa.

Their continued presence on the C-9 had been a source of scandal for Francis, given the explosion of the abuse and coverup crisis this year.

The Vatican made no mention of the accusations against Errazuriz and Pell in explaining their departures, and said for now, they won't be replaced.

Francis appointed the C-9 in 2013 to help him reform the Vatican and reorganize its bureaucracy. That work is wrapping up, with the finalizing of a new document outlining the work and mission of the various congregations that make up the universal government of the 1.2 billion strong church.

Chilean Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, shown at mass in 2013, declined to interrogate a pedophile priest out of respect, it was revealed in October. (Andrew Medichini/Associated Press)

A statement from the Vatican press office noted that the cabinet members asked Francis in September to reflect on the future composition, structure and work of the C-9, taking into consideration especially the advanced ages of some of its members.

Errazuriz, who retired as Santiago archbishop in 2010, announced publicly in November that he had removed himself from the group. Though he has been away from Rome since announcing his leave of absence in June 2017, Pell technically remains prefect of the Vatican's economy secretariat.