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The world is watching today as George Pell is sentenced for sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys at St Patrick's Cathedral in 1996.

Pell maintains his innocence and his appeal against the verdict will be heard in June.

Following the sentencing Pell registered as a sex offender, a list he will now be on for life.

Chief Judge Peter Kidd told the Melbourne court that the sentencing reflected the crimes committed and were not directed against the Catholic Church.

He was convicted of one charge of sexually penetrating a child and four of committing indecent acts with a child.

Almost 100 people lined up outside the doors of the courtroom this morning, including media from around the world and protesters.

Australian Cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to six years in jail with a non-parole period of three years and eight months.

Asked by a reporter outside court after the sentencing whether the case against Pell amounted to a witch hunt, his lawyer Robert Richter gave a rueful smile.

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

The trial heard testimony from one of the victims.

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

What did the judge say on Wednesday?

He was orally raped by Pell in the priest's sacristy after a Sunday mass in December 1996, forced to watch as Pell molested his 13-year-old friend, and then molested again by Pell a month later.

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But Sheriff Jay Jones said the list of missing people had shrunk from dozens to just seven or eight. He described the damage as "catastrophic", and said he expected the death toll to rise.

"You are to be punished only for the particular wrongdoing you have been convicted of ... of sexually abusing two boys in the 1990s", Kidd said.

"As I directed the jury who convicted you in this trial, you are not to be made a scapegoat for any failings or perceived failings of the Catholic Church".

In sentencing Pell, Kidd dismissed mental impairment as a factor in Pell's decision to offend.

"It is hard for me to allow myself to feel the gravity of this moment, the moment when the sentence is handed down, the moment when justice is done", the man said in a statement read outside court by one of his lawyers. However, there is no rest for me.

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

Some advocates for abuse survivors said they had hoped for a tougher sentence.

Pell was among three cardinals the pope removed from his group of close advisers a day after the December verdict.

The Church noted, however, that the cleric had a right to "defend himself to the last degree".

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.

What is the wider picture?

The following article discusses child sexual abuse.

Meanwhile, in Australia, a state inquiry into institutional abuse began airing accounts of child abuse and cover-ups in Ballarat and elsewhere over generations, triggering a more powerful, comprehensive Federal Royal Commission inquiry. At a landmark Church summit on paedophilia last month, he said clergy guilty of abuse were "tools of Satan".