Cardinal Pell, whose convictions had been overturned, dies at 81

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ROME — Cardinal George Pell, a onetime monetary adviser to Pope Francis who spent 404 days in solitary confinement in his native Australia on youngster intercourse abuse expenses earlier than his convictions had been unanimously overturned, died Tuesday in Rome. He was 81.

Pell suffered deadly coronary heart problems following hip surgical procedure, stated Archbishop Peter Comensoli, Pell’s successor as archbishop of Melbourne. Pell had been in Rome to attend the funeral final week of Pope Benedict XVI.

“This news comes as a great shock to all of us,” Sydney Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher stated in a press release on Fb. “Please pray for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Pell, for comfort and consolation for his family and for all of those who loved him and are grieving him at this time.”

Pell, the previous archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney, turned the third-highest ranked official within the Vatican after Pope Francis tapped him in 2014 to reform the Vatican’s notoriously opaque funds because the Holy See’s first-ever finance czar.

He spent three years as prefect of the newly created Secretariat for the Financial system, the place he tried to impose worldwide budgeting, accounting and transparency requirements.

However Pell returned to Australia in 2017 in an try to clear his title of kid intercourse expenses relationship from his time as archbishop.

A Victoria state County Court docket jury initially convicted him of molesting two 13-year-old choirboys at St. Patrick’s Cathedral within the newest Nineties shortly after he had turn into archbishop of Melbourne. Pell served 404 days in solitary confinement earlier than the full-bench of the Excessive Court docket unanimously overturned his convictions in 2020.

Throughout his time in jail, Pell stored a diary documenting all the pieces from his prayers and Scripture readings to his conversations with visiting chaplains and the jail guards. The journal became a triptych, “Prison Journal,” the proceeds of which went to pay his substantial authorized payments.

Within the diary, Pell mirrored on the character of struggling, Pope Francis’ papacy and the humiliations of solitary confinement as he battled to clear his title for a criminal offense he insists he by no means dedicated.

Pell and his supporters consider he was scapegoated for all of the crimes of the Australian Catholic Church’s botched response to clergy sexual abuse. Victims and critics say he epitomized all the pieces fallacious with how the church has handled the issue.

“Looking back, I was probably excessively optimistic that I’d get bail,” Pell stated in a 2021 interview at his residence in Rome, crediting his “glass half-full” angle to his Christian religion.

Even after he was acquitted, Pell’s fame remained tarnished by the scandal.

Australia’s Royal Fee into Institutional Responses to Baby Sexual Abuse discovered that he knew of clergy molesting kids within the Nineteen Seventies and didn’t take ample motion to deal with it.

Pell later stated in a press release he was “surprised” by the fee’s findings. “These views are not supported by evidence,” Pell’s assertion stated.

Together with his slightly brusque, no-nonsense Australian sensibilities, Pell clashed ceaselessly with the Vatican’s Italian outdated guard in the course of the three years he labored to get a deal with on the Vatican’s property and spending. He was vindicated when Vatican prosecutors put 10 folks, together with his onetime nemesis, on trial in 2021 for a number of alleged monetary crimes.

After Pell returned to Rome following his launch from jail, he had a well-publicized personal viewers with Francis.

“He acknowledged what I was trying to do,” Pell stated of the pope throughout a 2020 interview. “And, you know, I think it’s been sadly vindicated by revelations and developments.”

Francis stated as a lot in a latest interview with Italy’s Mediaset broadcaster, crediting Pell with having set the Vatican on the trail of monetary transparency and lamenting that he was compelled to desert the trouble to face the “calumny” of the abuse expenses again residence.

“It was Pell who laid out how we could go forward. He’s a great man and we owe him so much,” Francis stated final month.

Pell was born on June 8, 1941, the eldest of three kids to a heavyweight champion boxer and publican additionally named George Pell, an Anglican. His mom Margaret Lillian (nee Burke) was from an Irish Catholic household.

He grew up within the Victorian regional city of Ballarat. At 193 centimeters (6 foot, 4 inches) tall, he was a gifted Australian Guidelines Footballer. He was supplied knowledgeable soccer contract to play for Richmond however opted for a seminary as an alternative.

Whereas in Melbourne, he arrange the Melbourne Response which was a world-first protocol to research complaints of clergy sexual abuse and to compensate victims. Nonetheless many abuse victims had been important of the system and of compensation funds, saying they had been designed extra to defend the church from litigation.

After being exonerated, Pell divided his time between Sydney and Rome, the place he took half within the typical lifetime of a retired cardinal, attending Vatican occasions and liturgical feasts and in any other case maintaining with information of the church.

“I’ve become very Italian,” Pell advised a customer throughout a lull of the coronavirus pandemic, which he spent in Rome.

A requiem Mass can be celebrated in Rome, however Pell was anticipated to be buried in Sydney.

McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia.

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