ROME – The indomitable Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s leading Catholic prelate for decades, died in Rome late Tuesday at the age of 81.
Cardinal Pell underwent hip surgery in Rome on Tuesday, but suffered cardiac arrest just hours later and died as a result of the procedure.
In 2014, Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Pell as the first prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Economic Affairs, but his immersion in illicit financial dealings during his tenure made his presence uncomfortable and he was “increasingly marginalized”.
Pell’s investigation eventually culminated in the “financial crimes” trial of the former Vatican No. 1. 3 man, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who is still ongoing.
Cardinal Pell, a fearless and persuasive defender of Catholic orthodoxy, was falsely accused and convicted of sex abuse in 2018. He served 404 days in prison, much of it in solitary confinement, before finally being “fully acquitted” of all charges in a unanimous decision by the Australian High Court in April 2020.
During his incarceration, Pell wrote a three-volume work entitled prison journalChronicle of his prison experiences and reflections on numerous subjects.
A controversial figure, Pell was idolized by conservatives for his relentless preaching of Catholic doctrine and sensible approach to social issues, while he was allegedly loathed by the left for the same reasons.
Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott published a expression After Pell’s death, he said the country “lost a great son and the church lost a great leader.”
The cardinal is “a staunch defender of Catholic orthodoxy and a staunch advocate of the virtues of Western civilization,” Abbott wrote, adding that he “did draw praise and blame from all expected quarters.”
Abbott described Pell’s imprisonment as a “modern form of crucifixion” that was at least reputedly “a kind of living death.”
“By being so indifferent to a monstrous accusation, he strikes me as a saint of our time,” Abbott said.
Vale, Cardinal George Pell AC pic.twitter.com/DaSUNso9Lj
— Tony Abbott (@HonTonyAbbott) January 11, 2023
Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne expressed his “great sadness” at the news of the cardinal’s death.
“May everlasting light be upon him who believed so firmly in the God of Jesus Christ,” he wrote.
“Cardinal Pell was larger than life, a highly intelligent and well-read man who genuinely cared about everyone around him.” wrote Bishop Richard Umbers, an auxiliary bishop in Sydney, added that Pell had been a “pioneer” for much good in Sydney and the church at large.