Pope anniversary marked by Pell sentencing, scandal fallout

Pope anniversary marked by Pell sentencing, scandal fallout
Pope Francis arrives to board a bus as he leaves for a week of spiritual exercises in the village of Ariccia, at the Vatican, Sunday March 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — 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.

In his time as pope, Francis has made it a tradition to bring Vatican leaders with him on retreat at the start of Lent, the period of fasting and prayer leading to Easter.

While the retreat was underway Wednesday outside Rome, Cardinal George Pell was sentenced in Australia to six years in prison for sexually abusing two youths in the 1990s. He plans to appeal.

And in the U.S., a Gallup poll found 37 percent of U.S. Catholics question remaining in the church.