POPE Francis on Thursday night offered guarded support for Cardinal George Pell, while expressing respect for the Australian judicial system that will decide his fate.

But Vatican insiders are already preparing to pension off Cardinal George Pell, regardless of the outcome of the case involving historic sex offences.

The Herald Sun has been told it is highly unlikely that Cardinal Pell, who was promoted to the Vatican three years ago to reform its multi- billion euro real estate and financial portfolio, will return to Rome in his high-profile role.

Cardinal George Pell, left, reads a bible in 2011 during the blessing of a statue of John Paul ll at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, Australia. Australian police say they are charging Pell with historical sexual assault offenses.
Cardinal George Pell, left, reads a bible in 2011 during the blessing of a statue of John Paul ll at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, Australia. Australian police say they are charging Pell with historical sexual assault offenses. AP Photo/Rob Griffith,

Pope Francis, while supportive of Cardinal Pell, is seeking to fend off his harshest critics and minimise any reputational damage to the church.

In a statement read by his media officer, Greg Burke, Pope Francis said: "The Holy See expresses its respect for the Australian justice system, which will have to decide the merits of the questions raised.

"At the same time it is important to recall Cardinal Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned, as immoral and intolerable, the acts of abuse against minors."

Read more at Herald Sun

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