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Reports: Australian Cardinal Found Guilty of Sex Abuse

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FILE - Cardinal George Pell, center right, is surrounded by police as he arrives at the Melbourne Magistrates Court in Melbourne, Australia, July 26, 2017.

Australian Cardinal George Pell has been convicted of sexual misconduct, becoming the highest-ranking Vatican official to be found guilty of such a crime, American media reported Wednesday.

Pell's trial and all details involving the accusations against the Vatican treasurer were covered by a court-issued gag order, which forbade all media in Australia from reporting on it.

The conviction was first reported by the Daily Beast, an online news and opinion site, which said the charges stemmed from the abuse of two choir boys in the 1990s. Pell, who denied all allegations, was expected to appeal.

He is also expected to face another trial on a separate charge next year.

The Vatican earlier Wednesday did not mention Pell's case when it announced that Pell was one of two cardinals implicated in sexual abuse cases who had been removed from Pope Francis' inner circle.

Pell and Chile's Francisco Javier Errazuriz will no longer serve on the Council of Cardinals, also called the Group of Nine or C9. The Vatican said the pope wrote to the two men in October and thanked them for their service.

Errazuriz has been accused of covering up sexual abuse while he was archbishop of Santiago. He, too, has denied the charges.

Earlier this year, Francis defended Errazuriz, sparking a major outcry from sexual abuse survivors in Chile. The pope later apologized and called the presidents of all the world's bishops conferences to Rome for a three-day meeting in February to discuss protecting young people from pedophiles.

The Vatican also said Wednesday that a third member of the C9 would be leaving the group. Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, 79, of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has not been linked to the sex abuse scandal rocking the church.

None of the departing cardinals will be replaced.

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