George Pell death updates: Cardinal dies age 81; to be buried in ...
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Take a look back at some of the key moments from the life of Cardinal George Pell, following his death, aged 81.
Vatican reporter Colm Flynn, who interviewed Pell for the BBC at length following his release from custody in Australia, says prison didn’t break the cardinal’s spirit.
Flynn told Melbourne radio station 3AW the 81-year-old kept up his spirits by sticking to a routine, writing letters, corresponding with friends, and watching religious TV.
The Irish journalist, who has interviewed and dined with Pell and his private secretary on several occasions over the years, said Pell maintained he was innocent and “the truth would come out”.
“There was one moment he said where he thought the appeal wouldn’t have been going through and that was when he felt really disheartened,” he said.
“He always knew he was innocent, and the truth would come out. And that’s what kept him going right until that High Court action.
“He had a warm and gentle side that most people didn’t get to see. Always quick with a word of encouragement and support.”
Opposition leader Peter Dutton has called Pell a towering intellectual figure, a man of immense erudition and faith who was targeted in a modern-day political persecution.
“Our nation has lost an important intellectual figure and a towering presence in the Catholic community. His death will be felt in the Vatican and by Catholics around the world,” he said in a statement.
“Dr Pell’s appointment as a Cardinal in 2003 was a good day for Australia and for the Catholic Church here. He brought the World Youth Day and Pope Benedict XVI to Sydney in 2008 – a time of immense joy for young Australian Catholics and Catholic pilgrims from across the world who visited our shores.
“His advocacy for Catholic education and a fair go for Catholic and independent schools – particularly when they were under attack in 2004 – has ensured that equitable funding arrangements are now embedded in Australia’s education policy.
“In 2014, Pope Francis appointed Pell as the head of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy. No other Australian has risen to a higher position in the Catholic Church.
“Pell never lost faith in his God, his country, and in justice – despite the tests and trials he endured in life”.
On Wednesday afternoon, Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli prayed for Cardinal George Pell’s sins to be forgiven and that he be admitted to heaven.
About 40 people attended a mass presided over by Comensoli at St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne. The half-hour service was dedicated to Pell, whose death had been announced just hours before in Rome.
Flags outside the cathedral flew at half-mast and bells rang out for half an hour from noon.
To the left of the cathedral altar during the mass stood a small shrine with a large floral arrangement, candles and a framed photo of Pell with the then Pope Benedict XVI at World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008.
During the service, Comensoli noted that Pell had been the seventh Archbishop of Melbourne -1996 to 2001 before he was Archbishop of Sydney and then a Cardinal - and called on the congregation to pray for his soul.
“Let us pray for the repose of the soul of Cardinal George Pell, that his sins may be forgiven, that he may come to eternal life,” Comensoli said.
Later in the service, Comensoli said: “Accept O Lord we pray the sacrificial gifts we offer for the soul of your servant, Cardinal George Pell, that as you accorded him the pontifical dignity in this world, so you may command him to be admitted to the company of your saints in the heavenly kingdom, through Christ our lord.”
As one of his final prayers in the mass, Comensoli said: “We pray to almighty and merciful God, that as you made your servant Cardinal Pell an ambassador for Christ on earth, so you may raise him, purified by this sacrifice to be seated with Christ in heaven, who lives and reigns forever and ever.”
He asked the congregation to keep Pell’s brother, nieces and nephews that survive him in their prayers and said “in due course” there would be a more formal mass for Pell at St Patrick’s with details to be announced.
Cardinal George Pell’s death has left a “void” in Australia’s influence in the Vatican, as those who saw him close up recalled a complex man who was sharp-witted, surprisingly compassionate, and both admired and hated by many.
Former Sydney barrister John McCarthy, who was Australia’s Ambassador to the Holy See from 2012 to 2016 and who knew Pell personally for more than 40 years, said he exercised a strong leadership role in Australia and was responsible for the 2008 World Youth Day festivities, clergy reform and the church’s response to sex abuse.
Social media commentary about Pell has included a mix of admiration from supporters and overwhelming hatred on behalf of victims of child sex abuse. Many expressed deep anger about the Catholic Church’s culture of covering up for paedophile priests over which Pell had presided.
Trade union leader Luke Hilakari posted a comment on Twitter that was critical of Pell for leading a “culture of cover-up and secrecy. I shed no tears on his death.”
ABC religion and ethics specialist Noel Debien, who has reported on Cardinal Pell since 1996, said his initial reaction to the news was shock over the “void” it would create.
“He was still very influential. His connections are everywhere in Sydney, in Australia and overseas,” Debien said.
“I don’t know anybody who made it their business to be in Rome as much as George did. He made it his business to align himself with the bishops around the world and to know them.
“He has cut out such a huge role for himself in terms of influence in the Australian church that there is something gone all of a sudden.”
You can read Anna Patty’s full report here.
Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe said that it was with great sadness he had learnt of Cardinal George Pell’s death.
“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,” Costelloe said in a statement.
“His many strengths were widely recognised, both in Australia and around the world, as his Vatican appointments as Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy and as a member of the Council of Cardinals, an advisory group to Pope Francis, testify.
“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.”
Former Sydney barrister John McCarthy, KC, who was Australia’s Ambassador to the Holy See from 2012 to 2016 and who had known Pell personally for more than 40 years, remembers Pell as a towering figure in Sydney, Australia and Rome.
“It is unlikely that in the near future, anyone will have as much standing in Rome as much as Cardinal Pell had in the Australian hierarchy,” he said.
“It is clear that he remained - both in church terms and for the wider media and world - a very strong and positive asset to the Holy Father and the administration of the Holy See. I also note that he was a very strong and early supporter to Pope Francis.“
McCarthy said he never believed the cardinal was guilty of sex abuse. Pell was the first cardinal in the world to be jailed for child sex offences and served a year in prison before the High Court dismissed the charges.
“I thought the sentence that he had been given and time in prison was one of the most extraordinary in Australian history. His response to imprisonment, in terms of his spirit as shown by his writings, was also extraordinary and full of Christian spirit and love.”
McCarthy said Pell had exercised a strong leadership role in Australia and was responsible for World Youth Day, clergy reform, the church’s response to sex abuse.
“He was Australia’s best-known priest and was a world figure,” he said. “He had credibility of an enormous order in Rome for his integrity in respect to administration and money.
“There is no doubt that many things were made difficult for him in Rome because he did not approach this with anything other than the criteria of absolute integrity and proper administration.”
McCarthy, who chairs the Catholic Church Anti-Slavery Taskforce, said Pell had been a strong supporter of the campaign to end modern slavery.
He also remembers Pell as a great admirer of artist Michelangelo and a generous supporter of young Australian seminarians in Rome.
McCarthy said his family, including his Catholic priest son James, were shocked and in mourning.“We express our solidarity and condolences to his brother David and his other relatives,” he said.
“I was in the class of people who thought he was virtually indestructible. He will be in my thoughts and prayers over the coming days and weeks.”
After attending a mass held for the late Cardinal George Pell at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral on Wednesday, churchgoer Jeremy Ambrose said he was devastated at Pell’s death.
Ambrose said he would remember Pell as a warm and kind person and an inspirational leader. Ambrose came to the mass, presided over by Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli, to pray for Pell’s soul and for his family.
Ambrose, 38, of the Melbourne suburb of Glen Iris, but formerly from Sydney, said he was in a group of young Catholics Pell led on a pilgrimage to the World Youth Day in Germany in 2005 when Pell was Sydney Archbishop.
For 10 years after that, Ambrose worked for the Sydney Archdiocese as a pastoral worker in a university ministry and while he didn’t work closely with him, he found Pell was down to earth as a leader and a person. “He was someone who was always interested in what was happening on the ground and would always reach out and stay in contact”.
“I’ve always experienced him as kind, warm and generous,” said Ambrose, who is now a pastoral associate at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne.
“He was a good leader who could recognise gifts in others. Even people he may not have agreed with on everything, he would offer them the respect they deserved, and was able to work with a large variety of people for the good of the church.”
Former prime minister John Howard said the death of Cardinal George Pell was an “enormous” loss to the Catholic Church, but also to the nation.
“He was a strong and determined religious leader. His episcopal motto was ‘be not afraid’,” Howard said in a statement.
“His deep and compassionate faith sustained him during more than 400 days in prison for alleged crimes which many, me included, believed should never have been the subject of charges.
“Cardinal Pell’s trust in Australia’s justice system was vindicated when the High Court of Australia unanimously quashed his conviction.
“A great sports lover, having been an accomplished Australian Rules player, he then embraced the more widely played Rugby codes in Sydney.”
Howard said that until recent years, he spent time with Pell and his late sister at the traditional New Year Cricket Test in Sydney, where they spoke about various issues.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is yet to say whether he will attend Cardinal George Pell’s funeral.
When asked by a journalist he said: “[The funeral] hasn’t been set yet for any of those dates”.
“There will be an event in the coming days in the Vatican and that will be held, as appropriate. The announcements will be made. They haven’t been finalised yet.
“Of course, this will come as a shock to many. This was a hip operation. The consequences of it, unfortunately, have been that Cardinal Pell has lost his life. And I express my condolences to all those who will be mourning today.”
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