Pope Francis removes 3 cardinals from his inner circle

By Delia Gallagher and Jason Hanna, CNN

(CNN) -- Pope Francis has removed three cardinals from his small council of advisers for reasons of advanced age, the Vatican said Wednesday, though two also have been the subject of allegations relating to sexual abuse or covering it up.

Cardinal George Pell, 77, of Australia; Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, 85, of Chile; and Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, 79, of the Democratic Republic of Congo were removed from the council that Francis established in 2013, shortly after ascending to the papacy, the Vatican said in a statement.

Pell, 77, was charged in his home country with multiple historical sexual assault offenses, police said in June. He is the most senior member of the Catholic Church in Australia but was placed on leave from the Vatican while the allegations are investigated.

Pell has said he's innocent and maintains that the charges -- relating to claims of sexual abuse spanning three decades -- are false.

Errazuriz is being investigated by Chilean prosecutors on allegations that he didn't act on reports of clergy abuse while he was archbishop of Santiago, the Catholic News Service and the Catholic News Agency reported.

Errazuriz has denied the allegations.

Errazuriz announced in November that he was leaving the council. At the time, he said simply that his term on the council had ended, both news outlets reported.

Pell and Errazuriz were original members of Francis' council, which first included eight cardinals and convened to explore ways to reform the Catholic Church.

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