ROME — 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 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 took leave from his job as the Vatican’s economy minister to stand trial in his native Australia on historic charges of sex abuse, which he denies.
Their continued presence on the C-9 had been a source of scandal for Francis, given the explosion of the abuse and cover-up crisis this year. The Vatican made no mention of the accusations against them in explaining their departures, and said for now they wouldn’t be replaced.
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, had 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.
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.