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In sentencing Pell on Wednesday, a judge said the cleric had committed "a brazen and forceful sexual attack on the two victims".

Cardinal George Pell will spend a minimum of three years and eight months in jail for child sexual abuse.

Pell, now 77, but 55 at the time of the crime, was convicted of forcing the 13-year-old choirboys to perform oral sex on him in the priests' sacristy of St. Patrick's Cathedral, where he was archbishop.

He was convicted of five counts at a hearing in December, but the media were prohibited from reporting about the details of the case due to a broad gag order meant to protect the integrity of the trial.

"Nor are you being sentenced for any failure to prevent or report child sexual abuse by other clergy within the Catholic Church".

"It is not for me to second guess the verdict", Justice Kidd also emphasised, just after 10am in Melbourne's County Court.

Pope Francis is marking his sixth anniversary as pontiff with prayer, attending a weeklong spiritual retreat while elsewhere in the world one of his cardinals is sentenced for sex abuse and a new poll finds American Catholics are increasingly questioning their faith because of the scandal.

The surviving victim said everything was overshadowed by Pell's upcoming appeal.

Pell also argued the jury relied too heavily on one victim's evidence and that it did not constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt that the claims are true.

Chief Judge Kidd during the sentencing hearing.

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Pell's legal team has previously announced it will appeal his conviction on three grounds, including that the jury's verdict on all five charges was unreasonable, based on the evidence submitted.

The other boy, who never filed a complaint against Pell, had died in 2014 from a heroin overdose.

"You are not to be made a scapegoat. for the Catholic church", he said.

She said Pell had always seemed untouchable.

"Given the speculation and outpouring of anger and distress over the conviction, the reaction to sentencing will be likely highly emotionally charged and extremely polarizing", said Cathy Kezelman, president of the Blue Knot Foundation, a support group for victims of childhood trauma.

Statistics released in 2017 by Australia's Royal Commission into Responses to Institutional Child Sex Abuse stated that 7% of all Catholic priests in the country had abused children over the past six decades.

Several of Pell's other high-profile friends in Australia have leaped to his defense, questioning the jury's verdict and predicting the cardinal would be exonerated on appeal.

While awaiting sentencing, prisoners, for the most part, keep their civilian clothes, but now Pell's belongings will be taken and he will be given a green prison tracksuit for the first time.

In an unusual step the sentencing is being broadcast.

"It's a significant day for survivors and victims of child sexual abuse particularly within the Catholic Church, because what it shows them is that they can come forward, that the courts will believe them and the perpetrators of the crimes against them will be convicted and sentenced and held accountable for what they did, regardless of the position of authority they hold", Flynn said.