Cardinal George Pell dies aged 81


The highest-ranking Catholic official convicted of child abuse died before the ruling was overturned in 2020, Cardinal George Pell’s secretary said. He is 81 years old.

Father Joseph Hamilton confirmed Pell’s death on Tuesday night local time after being taken to a hospital in Rome for hip replacement surgery. While the operation was successful, Pell then went into cardiac arrest, Hamilton said.

Born in the Australian regional city of Ballarat on June 8, 1941, Pell rose in the Roman Catholic Church to become treasurer of the Vatican, considered by many to be the third-highest position in the church.

He held the post from 2014 to 2019, overseeing Pope Francis’ financial reforms, which largely stalled when he was recalled to Australia to face historic sex abuse allegations.

Pell was found guilty of the charges in 2018 and served 13 months in prison before the High Court of Australia overturned his conviction in April 2020. Pell strenuously denies the allegations, which he called “the product of fantasy” during a police interview in 2016.

In a two-page summary of its ruling, the High Court said the jury “should have been suspicious of the applicant’s offending” and ordered the conviction to be quashed.

In a statement, Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher expressed his sadness at Pell’s death. “This news comes as a huge shock to all of us. Please pray for the rest of Cardinal Pell’s soul, his family and all those who loved him and grieve for him at this time,” he said in a statement. said in a Facebook post.

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Asked about the news of Pell’s death on Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he had offered Fisher’s condolences on behalf of the government. “It will be a difficult day for many people, especially Catholics, and my condolences to all who mourn,” he said.

Pell was a controversial figure in Australia, with many on Twitter taking advantage of his death to show their support for survivors of child sexual abuse.

Pell was ordained a Catholic priest in December 1966 and subsequently studied in Rome, Oxford and Cambridge.

He returned to Australia in 1971 and for the next two decades he was priest in small parishes in Victoria and New South Wales.

In 1996, Pope John Paul II appointed him Archbishop of Melbourne, where Pell implemented one of the Catholic Church’s first projects to address allegations of sexual abuse, called the Melbourne Response. Response). Critics say it was meant to prevent a scandal and could have been more generous to victims.

Pell became Archbishop of Sydney in 2001 and a Cardinal in 2003, As a member of the College of Cardinals under John Paul II, he was one of the top church officials who elected the late Pope Benedict in 2005 and Pope Francis in 2013.

Pell moved to Rome in 2014 after Pope Francis handpicked him to be the Vatican’s treasurer and one of nine papal advisors to the Council of Cardinals.

Pell has also been outspoken about his views against same-sex marriage, abortion and contraception.

At the 2015 Fota VIII International Etiquette Conference in Cork, Ireland, Pell said Western societies are abandoning much of their Christian legal basis by passing same-sex marriage laws.

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Pell served as the Vatican's treasurer.

While in Rome, Pell was asked to give evidence to the Australian Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse about his knowledge and role in handling sexual abuse cases in the Australian Catholic Church.

In unredacted findings released in 2020, the commission found that Pell knew of sexual abuse at the church but failed to report it to police.

The royal commission, announced in 2012 under former prime minister Julia Gillard, interviewed nearly 8,000 survivors of child sexual abuse over five years and referred more than 2,500 cases to police.

According to reports, as early as 1973, Pell was “not only aware of the sexual abuse of children by clergy, but he also considered taking steps to avoid situations that might lead to gossip”.

In 2017, Victoria Police announced that Pell had been charged with multiple sexual assault offences.

His first trial ended with a hung jury when 12 jurors failed to reach a verdict after days of deliberation. The second trial, which resulted in a six-year sentence starting March 13, 2019, sent shockwaves through the Church.

The prosecution’s case rests on testimony from a man who said Pell sexually abused him and a choir boy after a Sunday mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, when Pell was archbishop. At the time, the boys were 13 years old.

The second did not tell anyone about the attack and took his own life in 2014 before allegations surfaced.

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The alleged sole witness claimed that Pell cornered them into the priest’s sacristy and forced them to perform sexual acts. No one witnessed the alleged attack, and there is no physical evidence. The alleged victim’s testimony was never made public, but the jury found his testimony so convincing that they returned a unanimous guilty verdict.

Australian Cardinal George Pell leaves after his release from Barwon Prison near Anaki, about 70 kilometers west of Melbourne, April 7, 2020.

While in prison, he wrote a diary, which was later published in Italian by the Cantagalli publishing house. He said he was held in solitary confinement for his own protection and called sexual abuse in the church “a spiritual and moral cancer,” according to Vatican News.

In 2020, the High Court of Australia unanimously overturned his convictions on five historic child sexual abuse offenses and ordered the convictions to be quashed and replaced with acquittals.

Lawyers representing the family of the late former choir boy said on Tuesday they would launch civil action over allegations against the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne and Pell’s estate.

“A civil trial may provide the opportunity to cross-examine Pell and really test his defense to these charges,” the statement from Shine Lawyers said. “There is still substantial evidence on which this claim rests, upon which the court will rule in due course,” it added.

Albanese said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was assisting in bringing Pell’s body back to Australia, where he would be interred in the crypt at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney.


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