The man who was once Australia's most powerful Catholic sat in the dock dressed in a suit without a clerical collar, as County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd carried out the sentencing.
It was after Pell left his hometown to become Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 that he committed offences against two choir boys in the city's St Patrick's Cathedral for which he was found guilty by the 12-person jury.
After the conviction was made public in Australia last month, Abbott told a radio program he had called Pell, although he declined to give details of the conversation.
"I am also conscious that I am sentencing at a particular time where in recent years there has been the exposure of child sexual abuse within institutional settings, including within the Catholic Church".
The hearings in the Court of Appeal are scheduled to be heard on June 5 and 6.
Pell was found guilty by a jury on four charges of indecent acts and one of sexual penetration.
The surviving victim said everything was overshadowed by Pell's upcoming appeal.
The BBC reports that Pell can apply for parole after three years and eight months.
The judge also warned other victims that "this sentence can not be vindication of wrongdoings against you [other victims]".
However, tensions ran high outside the court, with one self-declared abuse survivor breaking down in tears as he listened to a broadcast of the hearing, and another assailing Pell's departing lawyer with cries of "dirty money".
"Our client is disappointed with the short sentencing and has expressed sadness over what he believes is inadequate for the crime", Lisa Flynn of Shine Lawyers said in a statement.
"In sentencing you today, I am not sentencing the Catholic Church ... it is George Pell to be sentenced".
Worshipper Darryl D'Souza said Pell's conviction and sentencing was a sad situation for Catholics, but it did not change his belief in God or the church. One survivor of the abuse remains alive, the other died of a heroin overdose.
Judge Kidd rejected Pell's defence argument the crimes were committed by Pell, the man, not the archbishop.
"You are not to be made a scapegoat for any failings or perceived failings of the Catholic Church", Judge Kidd said.
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.
Pope Francis, leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, ended a conference on sexual abuse in February by calling for an "all-out battle" against a crime that should be "erased from the face of the earth".
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.
The Melbourne court allowed the live broadcast of Kidd reading out his sentencing remarks in a commitment to the principles of "open justice".
The following article discusses child sexual abuse.
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