Australia's Cardinal George Pell, a former top adviser to Catholic Pope Francis, was remanded into custody on Wednesday after a sentence plea hearing on his conviction for sexually abusing two choirboys more than two decades ago.

Cardinal George Pell arrives at County Court in Melbourne, Australia, February 27, 2019.
Cardinal George Pell arrives at County Court in Melbourne, Australia, February 27, 2019. (Reuters)

Cardinal George Pell was remanded in custody on Wednesday following his conviction for child sex crimes, capping an extraordinary fall from grace for one of the most powerful men in the Catholic Church.

Prosecutors told a pre-sentencing hearing that Pell, the most senior Catholic cleric ever convicted for child sex abuse, faces a maximum 50 years in prison for five charges of sexual assault against two choirboys at Melbourne's Saint Patrick's Cathedral in 1996-7.

Pell's lawyers earlier withdrew an application for bail with the Court of Appeal following his conviction, saying the cleric "believes it is appropriate for him to await sentencing" scheduled for March 13.

Pell has already lodged an appeal against the verdict.

He was silent through the sentencing hearing in the County Court of Victoria and when it concluded, he bowed to the judge and was led, without handcuffs, out of the courtroom.

The 77-year-old will be held in a remand centre until his sentencing, when he will be transferred to a prison.

Chief Judge Peter Kidd earlier told the court that Pell's offending was "blatant."

"I see this as a callous, brazen offending," Kidd said.

"I think it did involve breach of trust... he exploited two vulnerable young boys.

"They were entrusted into the care of the church... and the person who stood at the top of that was your client."