Disgraced Australian Cardinal George Pell was sentenced yesterday to six years in prison for the "brazen" sexual abuse of two choirboys, in what the judge lambasted as a "grave" abuse of power.
The former Vatican number three -- who managed church finances and helped elect two popes -- was sentenced in a Melbourne court on five counts, including oral rape and molestation of boys in 1996-1997.
Judge Peter Kidd, his remarks broadcast live on television, said the 77-year-old was guilty of "appalling offending" and "breathtakingly arrogant" attacks that took advantage of his position of authority over the boys, then aged 13.
Kidd said the cardinal, with his "significant history of cardiac problems", would be eligible for parole in late 2022, but acknowledged he "may not live to be released from prison".
He stood as a sentence well short of the maximum 50 years was set by Kidd, who cited Pell's "otherwise blameless life".
Pell signed the sex offenders' register before leaving the court in handcuffs for an undetermined facility.
The cardinal, a household name in Australia with friends that include prime ministers and business magnates, maintains his innocence and will appeal.