Controversial Catholic leader, Cardinal George Pell, dies suddenly at 81

Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s most eminent Catholic cleric, has died suddenly in Vatican City, aged 81.

Jan 11, 2023, updated Jan 11, 2023

Cardinal Pell, the former Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne and Archbishop of Sydney, died on Tuesday evening.

Vatican news outlet EWTN is reporting that his death was due to complications from hip replacement surgery.

He was Australia’s most senior Catholic and the Vatican’s top finance minister before he left Rome in 2017 to stand trial in Melbourne for child sexual abuse offences.

In 2018, Cardinal Pell was convicted of molesting two teenage choirboys in the sacristy at St Patrick’s Cathedral while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.

But Cardinal Pell always maintained his innocence and in 2020 his convictions were quashed in a unanimous decision by the High Court.

Father Edward Moloney, the administrator of Ballarat’s St Patrick’s Cathedral where Cardinal Pell served as a priest, said the parish would commend his soul to God and his merciful judgment.

“We pray in thanksgiving for all the good that he did,” Father Moloney told AAP.

“As with all our people who die, we remember the words of the scriptures – it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead.”

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It would be a very difficult day for Cardinal Pell’s family and loved ones, Victorian government minister Steve Dimopoulos said.

“But also a very difficult day for survivors and victims of child sexual abuse and their families, and my thoughts are with them,” Mr Dimopoulos told reporters on Wednesday.

The news of the cardinal’s death is slowly filtering through internationally, with the director of Texas San Angelo Diocese sending his prayers.

“I was graced to hear (Cardinal Pell) speak at the Sacra Liturgia Conference this summer,” Father Ryan Rojo tweeted on Wednesday morning.

“A true inspiration without an ounce of bitterness, despite his having every reason to lean into anger.”

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