Australian Cardinal George Pell Passes Aged 81

Australian Cardinal George Pell, a senior leader in the Catholic Church, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 81.

He suffered a cardiac arrest and passed away at 8:50 PM in Rome, as confirmed by his secretary.

Pell had a long and distinguished career in the Church. He served as Archbishop of Melbourne and then Sydney before Pope Francis appointed him to lead the Vatican’s economy department in 2014. He was known as a significant figure in the Church, both in terms of his physical presence and his intellectual contributions.

Pell was born in 1941 in Ballarat, Victoria, and was ordained as a priest for the diocese in 1966. He was later appointed as an auxiliary bishop of Melbourne in 1987 and as Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996. In 2001, he was appointed Archbishop of Sydney and served there until 2014, when he was appointed by Pope Francis to take charge of the newly created Secretariat for the Economy and to lead efforts to reform Vatican finances.

Pell was also appointed a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2003 and a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals in 2013. In 2017, Pell returned to Australia to defend himself against charges of abuse, which he was ultimately acquitted of in 2020. He returned to live in Rome in September 2020.

In 2021, Pell led a eucharistic procession at a university in Rome, where he reflected on his time in prison and his deepened appreciation for the importance of liturgical celebration in the faith.

Upon the news of Cardinal George Pell’s passing, the Catholic Church in Australia has expressed surprise and sadness.

Religious leaders like Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney and Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne have called for prayers for the repose of the Cardinal’s soul, and for the comfort and consolation of his family.

Former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, described the passing of Cardinal Pell as a loss for both Australia and the Church, praising him for his strong adherence to Catholic beliefs and his advocacy for Western culture.

Abbott also acknowledged the allegations of sexual abuse against Pell, and the High Court’s dismissal of charges, describing his detention as a form of reputational crucifixion, calling him a potential saint for contemporary times.