Pope Francis has removed two prominent clerics from the Council of Cardinal advisers he established five years ago. The Australian and Chilean cardinals, who were among nine princes of the Catholic Church-appointed special counselors to the pope, were implicated in the sexual abuse scandals in the Church.
Just two months before a scheduled meeting to discuss how to move forward in the clerical sexual abuse scandals, the removal of the two prominent cardinals is seen as a further embarrassment to the Catholic Church.
The Vatican on Wednesday said Pope Francis had written in October to Australian Cardinal George Pell and Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz of Chile thanking them for their work on the council.
Pell, a 77-year-old who used to be the Vatican's finance minister, left his job with an indefinite leave of absence to stand trial in his country on sexual abuse charges. The 85-year-old Errazuriz, who used to be archbishop of Santiago, has been accused of covering up abuse. Both men deny the allegations.
The Vatican provided no explanation for the removal of the cardinals and no mention was made of the sexual abuse allegations.
The recently retired 79-year-old archbishop of Kinshasa, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, also departed from the Council, although he had not been implicated in any scandal.
"After a five-year term, these three have now passed out. For the moment, the pope has not named new cardinals in their place," said Vatican spokesman Greg Burke.
Pope Francis established the Council of Cardinals in 2013 to help with reforms he wanted implemented in the various Vatican departments. That work of the council is close to completion. Additionally, Church authorities are working on a new document that outlines the work and mission of the various congregations within the government of the Church. The document is expected to be ready soon.