A Canadian judge has jailed a retired priest for sexual abuse of altar boys in an early reminder for the new Pope, Francis I, of the plethora of Vatican scandals he will need to tackle to restore the reputation of the Church.

The supreme court of Newfoundland and Labrador, eastern Canada, sentenced George Smith, 75, after he pleaded guilty to 41 charges of sexual assault, indecent assault and common assault committed over a 20-year period from 1969.

Thirteen men accused him of abusing them while he was a parish priest in western Newfoundland.

Smith lured his victims, some of whom were altar boys who helped him at Sunday mass, to his home for an overnight stay. He offered them money or the chance to drive his car.

At his home, they were plied with alcohol and sexually abused, the court heard.

Offences ranged from kissing to oral sex and anal penetration. Some victims were periodically abused for months or even years.

One plaintiff told the court that he had attempted suicide several times because of the abuse.

Smith's boss, Bishop Richard Grecco, removed him when the allegations surfaced in 2010.

The new Bishop of Corner Brook and Labrador, Peter Hundt, said that senior Vatican officials would consider whether further action under canon law would be taken against Smith.