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Update: Australian Cardinal George Pell dies at 81

Australian Cardinal George Pell exchanges greetings with Pope Benedict XVI as the pope meets for the last time with the College of Cardinals at the Vatican before his resignation in this 2013 file photo. Cardinal Pell fondly remembers his friendship with Pope Benedict XVI, who died Dec. 31. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

(OSV News) — Australian Cardinal George Pell, former prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy and archbishop of Sydney and of Melbourne, died Jan. 10 in Rome. He was 81. Sources told OSV News that Cardinal Pell went in for hip replacement surgery Jan. 10 and died of cardiac arrest following complications of the surgery.

Beginning at age 77, Cardinal Pell spent more than 400 days in jail after being convicted on five counts related to the abuse of two choir boys. In a decision handed down April 7, 2020, the Australian High Court overturned that conviction, concluding there was “a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof.”

“Thank you for your witness,” Pope Francis told Cardinal Pell during a private meeting in October 2020, six months later.

In reaction to the death of Cardinal Pell, Archbishop Anthony Fisher, OP, of Sydney posted on Facebook: “It is with deep sadness that I can confirm His Eminence, George Cardinal Pell, passed away in Rome in the early hours of this morning. This news comes as a great shock to all of us. Please pray for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Pell, for comfort and consolation for his family and for all of those who loved him and are grieving him at this time.”

“Cardinal Pell provided strong and clear leadership within the Catholic Church in Australia, as Archbishop of Melbourne and Archbishop of Sydney and as a member of the Bishops Conference for more than 25 years,” said Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, SDB, of Perth, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. “Cardinal Pell’s impact on the life of the Church in Australia and around the world will continue to be felt for many years. As we remember him and reflect on his legacy, I invite all Catholics and other people of goodwill to join in praying for Cardinal Pell, a man of deep and abiding faith, and for the repose of his soul.”

Auxiliary Bishop Richard Umbers of Sydney said in a tweet: “Larger than life, Cardinal Pell was a highly intelligent and well-read man who took a genuine interest in everyone around him. A pioneer for much good in Sydney, Australia, and the entire church. Please join me in praying for the repose of his soul. Requiescat in pace.”

According to Archbishop Fisher, who celebrated Mass for the deceased cardinal on Jan. 11 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, a requiem Mass will take place at St. Peter’s at the Vatican in the coming days. A funeral Mass will then be held at St. Mary’s, where he will be buried in the crypt.

For the full story, see your local Catholic news source.

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