VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis praised the late Australian Cardinal George Pell as a faithful servant of God and of the Catholic Church, who steadfastly followed the Lord even “in the hour of trial” when he was jailed for sexual abuse before his conviction was overturned by Australia’s highest court.
Cardinal Pell died in Rome Jan. 10 at the age of 81 after suffering a heart attack following hip replacement surgery.
Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, presided over the cardinal’s funeral Jan. 14 in St. Peter’s Basilica while Pope Francis presided over the final commendation and farewell at the end of the Mass. Cardinal Pell will be buried in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney Feb. 2.
Offering his condolences also to Cardinal Pell’s brother and family members, Pope Francis said the Australian prelate would be remembered for “his consistent and committed witness, his dedication to the Gospel and the Church, and particularly his diligent cooperation with the Holy See in its recent economic reform, for which he laid the foundations with determination and wisdom.”
Born June 8, 1941, in Ballarat, Australia, he was a star football player in high school and college, but left that behind to enter the seminary, studying first in Australia and then at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1966 at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
St. John Paul II appointed him an auxiliary bishop of Melbourne in 1987, archbishop of Melbourne in 1996, archbishop of Sydney in 2001 and gave him the cardinal’s red hat in 2003.
Soon after his election, Pope Francis named Cardinal Pell to his international Council of Cardinals to advise him on the reform of the Roman Curia and, in 2014, Pope Francis named him prefect of the new Council for the Economy.
Cardinal Pell’s death leaves the College of Cardinals with 223 members, 125 of whom are under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave.