The former Vatican treasurer is the most senior Catholic figure ever to be found guilty of sexual offences against children.
Pell has spent the past two weeks in custody and was brought into the court from the Melbourne Assessment Prison (MAP) via an internal entrance, avoiding rows of cameras set up outside the court in central Melbourne.
Last December, the now 77-year-old was found guilty on five charges relating to the sexual assault of two boys at Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral in 1996.
He was convicted of five counts at a hearing in December, but the media were prohibited from reporting about the details of the case due to a broad gag order meant to protect the integrity of the trial.
Two victim impact statements, one from the living survivor and another from the second boy's father, were tendered to the court, but neither party wished for them to be read aloud.
His conviction has rocked the Catholic Church, where he had been one of the Pope's closest advisers.
"In my view, your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance ..."
"Nor are you being sentenced for any failure to prevent or report child sexual abuse by other clergy within the Catholic Church".
Cardinal George Pell sentenced to six years in jail
"You are not to be made a scapegoat for the Catholic church".
Pell maintains his innocence and will appeal the conviction.
The senior Catholic was convicted in December, but the verdict was suppressed from being made public in Australia by a court order until February 26, when further child sex offence charges against Cardinal Pell dating back to the 1970s were dropped. "You are to be punished only for the particular wrongdoing you have been convicted of ... of sexually abusing two boys in the 1990s". Each offence carries a 10-year maximum prison sentence.
However, the judge also noted positive character witnesses including from former Prime Minister John Howard, of an "otherwise blameless life" and Pell's "exceptional career within the Church". The other died of a drug overdose in 2014.
Kidd stressed that by punishing Pell he does not seek to punish the whole Catholic Church, that has been rattled by the widespread allegations of sexual abuse of minors.
Before walking back to the court's cells, flanked by security, Pell signed paperwork to be registered for life as a sex offender.
Pell - who appeared in an open black shirt, light tan jacket and cane - nodded to a friend in court after being brought in by police but then stared straight ahead, showing no real sign of emotion during the sentence.