Cardinal George Pell dies in Rome

Cardinal George Pell dies in Rome

Australian Cardinal George Pell died on Tuesday evening after complications from hip surgery. He was 81 years old. He was prefect emeritus of the Secretariat for Economy since February 2019

By Salvatore Cernuzio

Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect emeritus of the Secretariat for the Economy, died on Tuesday evening, around 21:00, in Rome. He was 81 years old. The cardinal died after heart complications that arose after a long-planned operation. A few days ago, he had celebrated the funeral of Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square.

In Rome after his trial in Australia

Cardinal Pell – who had suffered from heart problems for some time and had been fitted with a pacemaker since 2010 – had returned to Rome in 2020, two years after his trial in Australia on allegations of child sex abuse in the 1990s.

In June 2017, the Cardinal was sent to trial and returned to his country to stand trial. Pope Francis had granted him a leave of absence so he could defend himself against the charges. After a lengthy court hearing, the District Court of the State of Victoria had ordered Cardinal’s arrest, revoking the bail granted to him following the indictment in December 2018. Sentenced in March 2019 to six years in prison, the High Court of Australia, in light of the numerous formal flaws in the trial proceedings highlighted by Judge Mark Weinberg, granted the appeal filed by Pell’s lawyers. The Cardinal was then fully exonerated by a High Court decision in April 2020. The decision was welcomed by the Holy See, which said in a statement that it had always trusted Australian judicial authority.

In an interview with Vatican News, the Australian cardinal, who turns 80 today, relives the experience he had during the thirteen months of detention recounted in his book “Prison …

Prison experience

Before his acquittal, Cardinal Pell spent 404 days in a cell at two maximum security prisons in Melbourne and Barwon from February to July 2019. It was a harsh experience, which included a period in solitary confinement, which the Cardinal recorded in a memoir entitled “Prison Journal”, published in three volumes by Ignatius Press. Pell kept daily notes recalling his encounters with other prisoners, the visits and letters he received, as well as the prayers and liturgies that accompanied him during his imprisonment. “My experience shows how much the teachings of the Church help us, how much prayer and seeking God’s grace help,” he said in an interview with Vatican Radio – Vatican News. In the same interview, he explained that he wrote continuously during his imprisonment because, “I thought it might be helpful for those who are struggling, for those who are going through a time of suffering, as I was.” He added, “I then thought that keeping a diary would be of historical interest because there were not many cardinals who had prison experience.”

Work in the Roman Curia

Born in Ballarat, Victoria, in 1941, the Archbishop first of Sydney and then of Melbourne, was later called by Pope Francis on April 13, 2013, to join the Council of Cardinals to study a reform project and to assist him in governing the Church. On 24 February 2014, he was appointed prefect of the newly created Secretariat for the Economy, initiating a series of financial reforms. He left the two positions in December 2018 and February 2019, respectively.

Memory of the Pope

After returning to Rome after his trial and imprisonment, Cardinal Pell was received by the Pope at the Apostolic Palace on October 12, 2021. On that occasion, Pope Francis thanked Pell for his “witness”. In a pre-Christmas interview with Mediaset that same year, the Pope recalled the cardinal’s prescient work in the economic sphere, noting that due to a “blow” – referring to allegations of abuse in Australia – Pell had to “step aside”. from this administration.”

“It was Pell who drew up the outline of how we could move forward,” Pope said. “He is a great man and we owe him so much.”

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