Cardinal George Pell loses position as Vatican treasurer after guilty verdict

Holy See says convicted child abuser will remain a cardinal at least until appeal is heard, but he is no longer prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy

The Vatican has confirmed that Cardinal George Pell’s position as the prefect of its Secretariat for the Economy has not been renewed, with the role one of the highest in the Catholic hierarchy.

In December Pell was found guilty of one charge of sexual penetration of a child under the age of 16 and four counts of an indecent act with a child under the age of 16. The verdict could not be widely reported until Tuesday owing to a suppression order.

Pell was not removed from his position managing the Vatican’s finances after the verdict. But when his term expired on 24 February, it was not renewed as it has been previously. The Australian has held the position since 2014 and still held it while he was on trial, having only stood aside from the role while he faced the charges against him.

Pell still holds the title of cardinal. In a statement issued on Tuesday the Vatican said Pell had “reiterated his innocence and has the right to defend himself to the last degree”. Pell’s lawyers have appealed the conviction.

“While waiting for the final judgment, we join the Australian bishops in praying for all the victims of abuse, reaffirming our commitment to do everything possible so that the church is a safe house for everyone, especially for children and the most vulnerable,” said the statement from Vatican press spokesman, Alessandro Gisotti.

Francesco Zanardi, who founded Rete l’Abuso, an Italian network of clerical abuse survivors, said: “A strong signal would have been completely removing Pell two years ago [when he first faced charges].”

Pell is likely to be remanded in custody on Wednesday when he returns to the county court in Melbourne for a sentencing hearing.