George Pell's sentence divides Catholics at Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral

Disgraced Cardinal Pell sentenced to six years in jail

Live: Catholic Church Cardinal George Pell sentenced for sexual abuse of children

He will be registered as a sex offender for life.

Pell will have to serve at least three years and eight months in jail before he is eligible for parole.

Pell's fall from grace began in 2015, when a former choir boy at Melbourne's St Patrick's cathedral reached out to police alleging sexual abuse by then archbishop of Melbourne in late 1996 and 1997.

The top Catholic was convicted in December, but the verdict was suppressed from being made public by a court order until 26 February, when further child sex offence charges against Pell dating back to the 1970s were dropped.

After his conviction, the Vatican launched its own investigation into Pell, which could lead to the cardinal losing his clerical status or being "defrocked", a severe punishment imposed by the Pope and not subject to appeal.

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

Senior crown prosecutor Mark Gibson SC foreshadowed in a pre-sentence hearing that Pell would spend "significant time" in prison, including likely long periods in lockdown because of his high profile.

As he delivered the hugely-anticipated verdict, Chief Judge Peter Kidd said that he made a decision to "impose a shorter non-parole period" than he would have done otherwise while taking into account Pell's age of 77.

She said she had found Pell to be an "arrogant" man.

"I think really, the point is, under the systems that work at the moment and the sentencing of other convicted paedophiles, it's a tough sentence", Neil Mitchell said.

The County Court's largest courtroom was filled with abuse survivors, advocates and a global television audience.

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But the judge also said that Pell had abused his position of power and had shown no remorse for his crimes. The second victim - who died of a heroin overdose in 2014 - also must have suffered "an immediate and lasting impact" and his father's statement was considered.

Kidd said Pell has "effectively reformed".

The judge started the proceedings by saying Pell was on trial and not the Catholic Church.

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.

If defrocked, Pell would be the highest profile figure to be dismissed from the priesthood in modern times and only the second Roman Catholic prelate to lose the title of cardinal in almost 100 years.

"You are not to be made a scapegoat for any failings or perceived failings of the Catholic Church", Judge Kidd said.

In the decades since, evidence of widespread abuse has emerged globally.

Last night as Pell prepared to learn his fate, a projection of the words "crime scene" lit up the gates to St Patrick's Cathedral where the sexual abuse took place.

In an unusual step the sentencing is being broadcast.

The sexual abuse of children was rarely discussed in public before the 1970s, and it was not until the 1980s that the first cases of molestation by priests came to light, in the USA and Canada.

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