''Cardinal Pell is a spiritually impotent leader, a leader who presents no empathy, no moral judgment and no felt deep concern for victims, a leader who is avoiding responsibility for the immorality and sodomy that has been breeding in his house of God,'' says the petition to papal nuncio Archbishop Paul Gallagher.

''It is time for the Roman Catholic Church in Australia to change, and the starting point is for Cardinal George Pell to stand down. He is part of the problem, not the solution.''

The request by victims' advocacy group COIN comes as another petition, launched last month by Sydney Catholic Bishop Geoffrey Robinson calling for a global church council to tackle the scourge of clergy sexual abuse, has passed 80,000 signatures.