The Vatican's acting spokesman says Australian Cardinal George Pell is "is no longer" the Holy See's economy minister.

Alessandro Gisotti made the announcement on Twitter hours after Pell's conviction in Melbourne for molesting choirboys became public.

Pell's five-year mandate was due to expire this month, and Pope Francis had not been expected to renew it.

Francis had tapped Pell as his economy minister in 2014, early in his papacy, even though some allegations against the Australian were known at that time.

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Pell risks a maximum prison term of 50 years for the conviction of the charges that he sexually abused the boys in a cathedral in the 1990s when he was archbishop of Melbourne.

Sentencing hearings have begun in Melbourne today.

Gisotti says the "painful" news of Pell's conviction has shocked many people, but adds that the prelate "has reiterated his innocence and has the right to defend himself" until the last level of justice.

Gisotti said Pope Francis has confirmed "precautionary measures" already taken against Pell, including a ban on his saying Mass in public and "as is the rule, contact in any way or form with minors."

An Australian prelate says the nation's bishops hope that "justice will be served" throughout Australia's legal process, including during Pell's appeal.

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge also told reporters in Rome that "we pray for all those who have been abused and for their loved ones and we commit ourselves anew to doing everything possible to ensure that the church is a safe place for all, especially the young and the vulnerable."


Coleridge was in Rome for Pope Francis' four-day summit on clergy sex abuse at the weekend.

A law firm representing the father of a sex abuse victim who died of a heroin overdose says Pell, has "blood on his hands."

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Shine Lawyers attorney Lisa Flynn says the father, who like his son cannot be named because it is illegal under Australian law to identify a victim of sexual assault, is planning to sue the church or Pell individually once his appeal is finalised.

Flynn says the victim's fatal overdose in 2014 at the age of 31 was linked to his post-traumatic stress disorder.

While the victim had never reported abuse to his family or police, a jury found in December he had been sexually abused by Pell in 1996 on the testimony of a friend whom Pell was also convicted of abusing.

An Australian man who was sexually abused decades ago by Pell says he has experienced "shame, loneliness, depression and struggle."

The man was one of the two former choirboys that Pell was convicted of molesting moments after celebrating Mass in 1996 when Pell was archbishop. The boys were 13 at the time.

In his statement, the man said it had taken him years to understand the impact the assault had on his life.

-AP