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‘A man of the Church’: Cardinal George Pell’s funeral celebrated at Vatican

Pope Francis blesses the coffin of Cardinal George Pell at the Australian prelate's funeral Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on Jan. 14, 2023. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2023 / 07:50 am (CNA).

Catholics traveled from near and far to attend the funeral Mass of Cardinal George Pell in St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday.

The Australian cardinal died in Rome Jan. 10 from a cardiac arrest following a hip surgery. He was 81.

His Jan. 14 funeral, held at the Altar of the Chair, was filled to capacity, with extra chairs added at the last minute to accommodate people standing as far back as the Vatican basilica’s main altar.

Cardinal George Pell's funeral in St. Peter's Basilica on Jan. 14, 2023. Vatican Media
Cardinal George Pell's funeral in St. Peter's Basilica on Jan. 14, 2023. Vatican Media

“A man of God and a man of the Church, he was characterized by a deep faith and great steadfastness of doctrine, which he always defended without hesitation and with courage, concerned only with being faithful to Christ,” Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re said about Pell in his homily for the funeral.

“As he noted many times, the weakening of faith in the Western world and the moral crisis of the family grieved him,” Re said. “To God, who is good and rich in mercy, we entrust this brother of ours, praying that God will welcome him into the peace and intimacy of his love.”

Pell’s brother, David Pell, and cousin Chris Meney, together with other family members, priests, and religious, traveled from Australia to be at the funeral.

Michael Casey, Pell’s former secretary who now works at the Australian Catholic University, was also in attendance.

From Rome, Holy See diplomats, students, and priests also came to pray for Pell’s repose. Seminarians of the Pontifical North American College attended the funeral Mass immediately following their audience with Pope Francis the same morning.

American author George Weigel, a longtime friend of Cardinal Pell, traveled from the United States for the funeral.

The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Re, the dean of the College of Cardinals, and concelebrated by cardinals and bishops.

Pell’s private secretary during his years in Rome, Father Joseph Hamilton, and archbishop Georg Gänswein, the longtime secretary of Pope Benedict XVI, also concelebrated.

Archbishop Georg Gänswein concelebrates the funeral Mass of Cardinal George Pell on Jan. 14, 2023. Alan Koppschall/CNA
Archbishop Georg Gänswein concelebrates the funeral Mass of Cardinal George Pell on Jan. 14, 2023. Alan Koppschall/CNA

Pope Francis arrived at the end of the Mass to perform the rite of final commendation and farewell, as is his custom for the funeral of a cardinal.

“May God unite his soul with those of all the saints and faithful departed,” the pope prayed. “May he be given a merciful judgment so that, redeemed from death, freed from punishment, reconciled to the Father, carried in the arms of the Good Shepherd, he may deserve to enter fully into everlasting happiness in the company of the eternal King together with all the saints.”

Pope Francis presided over the Final Commendation and Farewell at the end of Cardinal George Pell's funeral on Jan. 14, 2023. Alan Koppschall/CNA
Pope Francis presided over the Final Commendation and Farewell at the end of Cardinal George Pell's funeral on Jan. 14, 2023. Alan Koppschall/CNA

Francis sprinkled holy water. A priest incensed the coffin as the choir and congregation sang the Marian antiphon Sub Tuum Praesidium.

Applause broke out as Pell’s coffin was carried from St. Peter’s Basilica.

The cardinal will be buried in his former cathedral, St. Mary’s, in Sydney, Australia.

The day before his funeral, a visitation was held for Pell in the Church of Santo Stefano degli Abissini inside the Vatican.

A visitation was held for Cardinal George Pell in the Church of Santo Stefano degli Abissini inside the Vatican on Jan. 13, 2023.
A visitation was held for Cardinal George Pell in the Church of Santo Stefano degli Abissini inside the Vatican on Jan. 13, 2023.

The Gospel for Cardinal Pell’s funeral Mass was from Luke 12, about the vigilant and faithful servants: “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival,” Luke 12:37 says.

The Responsorial Psalm was from Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

In his homily, Re remarked on Pell’s unexpected death and on his recent attendance at the funeral of Pope Benedict XVI.

A Swiss Guard genuflects during the consecration at Cardinal George Pell's funeral Mass on Jan. 14, 2023. Alan Koppschall/CNA
A Swiss Guard genuflects during the consecration at Cardinal George Pell's funeral Mass on Jan. 14, 2023. Alan Koppschall/CNA

“Despite his 81 years, he seemed to be in good health,” he said. “Hospitalized for hip surgery, heart complications ensued, causing his death.”

“Enlightened and comforted by faith in the risen Christ, we are gathered around this altar and the body of Cardinal Pell to entrust his soul to God, that he may be received into the immensity of his love in life without end.”

Re described Pell as a “strong-willed and decisive protagonist, characterized by the temper of a strong character, which at times could appear harsh.”

The cardinal’s premature death, Re said, has left us dismayed, but “there is only room in our hearts for hope.”

Cardinal George Pell's coffin is removed from the altar after his funeral Mass on Jan. 14, 2023. Alan Koppschall/CNA
Cardinal George Pell's coffin is removed from the altar after his funeral Mass on Jan. 14, 2023. Alan Koppschall/CNA

Cardinal Pell authored controversial memo critical of Pope Francis, journalist reveals

Cardinal George Pell. / Matthew Rarey

Rome Newsroom, Jan 13, 2023 / 13:05 pm (CNA).

A Catholic journalist from Italy revealed Wednesday that Cardinal George Pell, who died on Jan. 10, had been the author of a controversial memo about the next papal election.

The anonymous memo was circulated among cardinals during Lent last year and made public by Sandro Magister on March 15, 2022.

Magister, a longtime Vatican journalist, revealed the identity of the document’s author on Jan. 11, the day after Pell’s death from a cardiac arrest at the age of 81.

In an article about the Australian cardinal’s “last writings,” Magister wrote on his blog “Settimo Cielo” that “Pell was the author of that memorandum, signed ‘Demos,’ which was very critical of the pontificate of Francis.”

The funeral Mass of the Australian cardinal will be held in St. Peter’s Basilica on Jan. 14. Pope Francis will preside over the rites of final commendation and farewell, as he does for all cardinals who die in Rome.

Magister’s disclosure sparked a backlash against Pell on social media.

“Like Jesus, Francis’s love and mercy draw out bad spirits of disdain and rigidity. You saw it, sad to say, in Pell RIP,” tweeted Catholic journalist and Pope Francis biographer Austen Ivereigh.

But at least one friend of Pell’s, Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio, founder and editor of Ignatius Press, voiced skepticism that Pell was the author of the memo.

“I think it’s just pure speculation as to whether he’s the author or not,” Fessio said Jan. 12 on EWTN’s “The World Over with Raymond Arroyo.” “He’s said enough things publicly that we can understand what his views were on these things. I will take a sed contra on this. George Pell was a loyal son of the Church. He would not publicly criticize the Holy Father, and I doubt that he would put his signature to something, even anonymously, that would be public criticism.”

The memo on a future conclave described Pope Francis’ pontificate as a “disaster” and listed ways the author thought the pope had caused confusion on important issues in the Church.

The document’s author also laid out what it considered to be grave problems in the Vatican, including financial, legal, and doctrinal issues, before outlining the qualities needed in the next pope.

“The Vatican’s political prestige is now at a low ebb,” the memorandum said.

The critical tone of the memo is matched by a more recent writing by Pell, published posthumously by the British magazine The Spectator.

The article, which calls Pope Francis’ three-year-long Synod on Synodality a “toxic nightmare,” was published on Jan. 11.

An associate editor of the magazine, Damian Thompson, described the article as Pell’s “last public statement,” though he did not know he was about to die when writing it and “was prepared to face the fury of Pope Francis and the [synod] organisers when it was published.”

Cardinal George Pell’s final years in Rome

Cardinal George Pell gives an interview to EWTN News at his home in Rome in December 2020. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Jan 12, 2023 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Cardinal George Pell arrived in Rome on Sept. 30, 2020, in the midst of Vatican financial scandals and the immediate aftermath of the resignation of his once-rival, Cardinal Angelo Becciu.

Pell returned to the Eternal City after defending himself against abuse charges in his home country of Australia for three years. In April 2020, Australia’s High Court overturned his conviction and ordered his immediate release from jail.

After more than a year behind bars, Pell’s time in Rome was marked by a level of activity impressive for a man entering his eighth decade of life.

The Australian cardinal published three volumes of his prison journals. He had interviews, lunches, and speaking engagements in Rome and abroad. He did not neglect prayer, either, in what ended up being the last two years and three months of his life.

Cardinal George Pell arrives at his Rome apartment, one block from the Vatican, on Sept. 30, 2020. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Cardinal George Pell arrives at his Rome apartment, one block from the Vatican, on Sept. 30, 2020. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Shortly after his return to Rome, he could be seen at the entrance of the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, where he had come to the parish’s regular eucharistic adoration, prayer journal in hand.

He could be spotted regularly, in the two years that followed, on the streets around the church and his apartment, one block from the Vatican.

One time, when a reporter stopped to introduce herself to his personal secretary, the young priest had to run to catch up with the gentle giant, lumbering, walking stick in hand, about 300 feet ahead.

“We’re late for adoration,” the winded Father Joseph Hamilton explained.

Pope Francis received the exonerated cardinal — his former finance chief — on Oct. 12, 2020, at the Vatican.

In January 2021 Pell spoke in a webinar about financial transparency in the Catholic Church, welcoming Pope Francis’ inclusion of laywomen on the Vatican’s economy council.

He said he hoped “clear-headed” women would help “sentimental males” do the right thing concerning Church finances.

The former head of the Archdiocese of Sydney and Diocese of Melbourne, Pell also met frequently with the priests of Australia living and studying in Rome.

Father Michael Kong, 39, met Pell in 2021. He told CNA he saw the cardinal about once a month or so together with other Australian priests. Pell also attended functions at the Australian embassy.

Father Michael Kong at lunch with Cardinal George Pell in summer 2022. Credit: Father Michael Kong
Father Michael Kong at lunch with Cardinal George Pell in summer 2022. Credit: Father Michael Kong

Kong described Pell as a pastor, father, and friend.

“He was very friendly and he always asked me how I was doing,” the priest said. “He always asked me about my opinion on certain issues and media and things.”

The Melbourne priest is studying Church communications at Rome’s University of the Holy Cross.

He said for the Australian priests in Rome, Pell was “a good pastor, a good shepherd, a spiritual father, or even a grandfather.”

Kong said the cardinal was always kind to the random people who would approach him on the street to say hello.

“I witnessed that he was a man of strong faith in God, of course,” he said, adding that Pell had a “gentle and humorous manner” with people.

In May 2021, Pell led a eucharistic procession at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, known as the Angelicum.

Speaking to EWTN News, Pell said: “I’m very pleased to be here. I gather it’s a student initiative, led by students, a wonderful example of faith in practice.”

“I think it’s important after COVID to get back to a regular church routine of prayer and worship,” he continued. “I’m not sure in the long run that COVID will change too much, but it might have given another excuse for us to get a little bit slack, a little bit relaxed, in our approach to our prayer and worship, and we’ve got to battle against that.”

Cardinal George Pell leads a eucharistic procession in Rome on May 13, 2021. Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Cardinal George Pell leads a eucharistic procession in Rome on May 13, 2021. Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Pell also had a good relationship with journalists and media. He collaborated with EWTN on multiple occasions, including taped and live interviews the week of the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, just a couple of weeks before his own sudden passing from a cardiac arrest.

“What I knew about him was, I think, what many Catholics knew about him, which was really the high-profile case,” Colm Flynn, a journalist working with EWTN, told CNA.

From 2020 until this month, Flynn interviewed Pell about five times, for both TV and radio.

Flynn said he thought the cardinal would be reluctant to do media interviews after his return to Rome. But it only took a bit of time to build up the trust of Pell and his secretary.

“And then I was surprised when I first met him that there was a different side to Cardinal George Pell than the one that I had seen portrayed in the media,” Flynn said. “There was this gentle and kind side to him that you often didn’t see in other places or hear about. So I was lucky enough to kind of see that side of him over the past couple of years.”

“On top of that he was always quick to offer a word of support and encouragement to me and to the team at EWTN,” he said.

In March 2022, Pell celebrated Mass in memory of Mother Angelica, the founder of EWTN, at the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia.

At the Mass, which marked the sixth anniversary of Mother Angelica’s death in 2016, Pell commented on the nun’s “feisty character.”

“Mother was a flesh-and-bone figure, energetic, pushy, aggressive for the Gospel. She was not well named as it will be difficult to think of anyone who was, in some ways, less angelical,” he said in his homily.

The same morning as the Mass, the Rome marathon had blocked people from crossing the main thoroughfare in front of St. Peter’s Basilica to arrive at the church.

“I had a little difficulty getting across the Via della Conciliazione here because of the marathon,” Pell commented. “And I had to employ an ounce of Mother Angelica’s direct approach to be able to get here for the Mass. So we thank God for that.”

Funeral of Cardinal George Pell to be at Vatican on Saturday

Cardinal George Pell leads Eucharistic adoration and a Eucharistic procession at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) in Rome on May 18, 2021. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jan 12, 2023 / 03:38 am (CNA).

The funeral Mass of Cardinal George Pell will be held in St. Peter’s Basilica at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14, the Vatican announced Thursday.

Pell, the prefect emeritus of the Secretariat for the Economy, died suddenly in Rome on Jan. 10 at the age of 81.

The funeral will be celebrated at the Altar of the Chair by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the dean of the College of Cardinals, with other cardinals and bishops concelebrating.

Pope Francis will preside over the rite of Final Commendation and Farewell.

Following the funeral, Pell’s body will be brought back to Australia, where he will be buried in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney.

A towering figure of the Church both physically and intellectually, Pell served for many years as archbishop of Melbourne and then Sydney before Pope Francis appointed him to lead the Vatican’s economy department in 2014.

Pope Francis praised the Australian cardinal’s witness, dedication, and faith in a condolence message on Jan. 11.

The pope said he recalled “with a grateful heart his consistent and committed witness, his dedication to the Gospel and the Church, and particularly his diligent cooperation with the Holy See in the context of its recent economic reform, of which he laid the foundations with determination and wisdom.”

George Pell was born on June 8, 1941, in Ballarat, a town in Victoria, to an English-born Anglican father and a devout Catholic mother of Irish descent.

Pell was ordained a priest for the diocese in 1966. He was made an auxiliary bishop of Melbourne in 1987, and nine years later he was named archbishop of Melbourne.

In 2001 he was appointed archbishop of Sydney, where he served until being appointed by Pope Francis to take charge of the newly created Secretariat for the Economy and to lead efforts at reforming Vatican financial affairs in 2014.

The Australian was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in October 2003, while he was archbishop of Sydney. Ten years later, Pope Francis appointed Pell a member of his Council of Cardinals, and the year after, he put him in charge of Vatican finances.

In 2017, Pell left Rome for Australia to defend his innocence of abuse charges. After 404 days in prison he was ultimately acquitted in 2020. He returned to live in Rome on Sept. 30, 2020, his first visit back to the city since his trial and imprisonment.

Cardinal Pell’s prison journal, written while he was in solitary confinement, is being published in three volumes. He has said he could not offer Mass in jail because he was not allowed access to wine for use in the consecration.

In 2021, Pell turned 80 years old, losing his eligibility to vote in a future papal conclave.

Analysis: What to read in Benedict XVI’s secretary’s ‘tell-all’ book?

null / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Rome Newsroom, Jan 11, 2023 / 12:48 pm (CNA).

In the latest book by Archbishop Georg Gänswein, for 20 years personal secretary to Pope Benedict XVI, there is much more than bitterness at having been made a “halved prefect” by Pope Francis.

Indeed, while the hype surrounding the publication has focused on that particular situation — the removal of Gänswein as prefect of the papal household — and has characterized Gänswein as willing to seek tension, almost to place one pontificate against the other, the book offers much more than that.

In fact, perhaps its most precious content is the excerpts from the homilies that Benedict XVI gave in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, where he spent the last years of his life.

Those homilies are probably the most innovative element of the book, which Gänswein wrote with journalist Saverio Gaeta. Titled “Nothing but the Truth: My Life Beside Benedict XVI,” the book comes out in Italian on Jan. 12, but CNA was able to preview it.

As long as his voice allowed him, Benedict XVI personally prepared the homilies, with notes written in pencil in a notebook that would then serve as a guideline for what he would say. They were simple, precise, straight-to-the-point homilies that the four Memores Domini (the consecrated laywomen of Communion and Liberation) who served as Benedict XVI’s family recorded and transcribed.

Only a few could listen to some of those homilies because Benedict XVI rarely received people, so the report of those homilies is an invaluable treasure.

What else can be found in the book? First, of course, there is Gänswein’s open anger and surprise at being abruptly relieved of his post as prefect of the papal household by Pope Francis, without any explanation.

Other previews spoke of Benedict XVI’s bitterness in learning about Traditionis custodes, Pope Francis’ apostolic letter with which he overturned the former pope’s decisions to expand the celebration of the ancient Mass.

However “juicy” these details may be for the media, they are certainly not the most novel element of the book.

Without diplomatic filters, using the straightforward language that those who know him are used to hearing, Gänswein outlines various interesting and partially unpublished situations. These include: the case of the book by Cardinal Robert Sarah, which named Benedict XVI as co-author; contacts with Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio before and after he became pope; the long letter that Benedict XVI wrote to Pope Francis to comment on his first interview granted to La Civiltà Cattolica in 2013, and a new details about how Benedict's decision to renounce the pontificate came about.

The book offers insights to these stories and others through the eyes of a direct witness. It should be understood as a memorial, not an indictment. It provides a faithful account of situations and stories as Gänswein experienced them.

The resignation

In some cases, new facts are given and previously known accounts are presented in a different light. One example is Gänswein's explanation for why Benedict XVI placed the pallium on the tomb of St. Celestine V, the pope who renounced his pontificate in 1294. His tomb is in L’Aquila, in central Italy, where Benedict had gone in 2009 to visit areas affected by an earthquake.

Benedict’s gesture has been interpreted as an indication of a willingness to resign that would occur several years later.

However, it was not like that, Gänswein reveals. He explains that Benedict XVI wanted to do an act of homage to his predecessor. So he placed a pallium, which Archbishop Piero Marini, at the time master of liturgical celebrations for Pope John Paul II, had sewn. This pallium fell uncomfortably on the shoulders of Benedict XVI, who thus took advantage of the opportunity to pay homage and donate it. The decision also tells much about how Benedict XVI dealt with the issues: He sought elegant solutions without offending anyone while trying to unite everyone.

However, the details of the decision to resign are more dramatic. Gänswein explains how Benedict XVI had already begun withdrawing into more profound prayer after his trip to Cuba and Mexico in 2012. There were indications that he was considering resignation, which triggered some questions asked by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, then secretary of state. But such a decision was inconceivable.

When Benedict XVI reached the decision, there was no way to change his mind, Gänswein reports. Bertone and Gänswein only managed to convince him not to make the announcement during his annual Christmas greeting to the Curia on Dec. 21, 2012, but to postpone it a bit. If the announcement had been made on that day, and the pontificate had ended on Jan. 25, Christmas would not have been celebrated, Gänswein writes.

Benedict XVI

In Gänswein’s story, Benedict XVI emerges as an ironic man — learned, methodical, and brilliant — but above all as a man of faith. Naturally introverted, Benedict XVI withdrew into himself and silence when there were important issues. And he prayed. He prayed more intensely. He prayed hard. He did so moved by an unshakable faith and the need to live and understand the meaning of events.

As John Paul II was dying, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became increasingly reflective. Finally, when it became clear that he was being thought of for the succession, he almost withdrew. But then, after prayer, after having matured the decisions, Ratzinger was a serene, convinced, and determined man.

Ratzinger was also loyal, close to his collaborators, careful not to harm any of his friends. Benedict XVI sought harmony — a fact that emerges clearly from Gänswein’s account.

The Sarah case

The search for harmony can also be seen in the Sarah case, or “Pasticciaccio Sarah,” as Gänswein defines it. The reference is to Cardinal Sarah’s book, “From the Depths of Our Hearts,” which also included an essay by Benedict XVI. The essay was dedicated to the question of priestly celibacy, and it was believed that it would come out after the publication of the postsynodal exhortation Querida Amazonia in February 2020.

However, it came out earlier, on Jan. 15, 2020, because Pope Francis had only approved the text on Dec. 27, 2019, creating the impression that the book was intended to influence the pope’s reflections on the Amazon Synod.

Such a motive wasn’t true, Gänswein writes. Nor was it true that Benedict XVI had been informed that he would appear as co-author.

Gänswein explains the situation, recalling that Sarah asked Benedict XVI to sign a press release to defend the operation. Gänswein was against it; Benedict XVI took time to think and then drew up a statement deferring the decision to his superiors. And Pope Francis let it be known that it was better not to publish.

At that point, tweets arrived from Sarah’s account, claiming that Benedict XVI had read and approved the drafts. There also was a dramatic confrontation between Gänswein and the cardinal in which the latter blamed Nicolas Diat, the journalist who had written several books with Sarah and who was described as the “director of the work.”

Gänswein’s account reveals much resentment over the situation. But it also includes a long letter that Benedict XVI himself sent to Pope Francis, published almost in its entirety, explaining his position and role in the affair and to clear the air of any possible idea of an opposition between Francis and the pope emeritus.

Benedict, La Civiltà Cattolica interview, and the Jesuits

Benedict XVI’s letter to Pope Francis is not the only unpublished work by the pope emeritus included in the book. Pope Francis spoke in 2013 to the Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica and sent the notebook used with the interview to Benedict XVI, asking him for comments. Benedict did so by writing a long letter to the pope, dated Sept. 27, 2013. In it, Benedict XVI insists on two aspects: that it is necessary to fight against the “concrete and practical denial of the living God” accomplished through abortion and euthanasia, and being aware of gender ideology, defined as manipulation.

But Benedict XVI and Francis had almost “touched” on other occasions. At the beginning of Benedict’s pontificate, some situations of the Society of Jesus were discussed, and even a commissioner was considered. Cardinal Bergoglio argued that there was no need for a commissioner, obtaining the promise that that provision would never take place.

Gänswein

Overall, in his book Gänswein is outspoken about critical situations. He does not shy away from admitting that he was wrong in some cases, but he also has no problem denouncing false reconstructions about the pope and his collaborators.

From the book’s narrative, all in the first person, emerges a private secretary still working for his superior. Every situation considered controversial or misjudged by the press is re-explained in great detail.

Gänswein looks at Benedict XVI almost like a father, with kindness for what seems to be naïveté and the admiration of one who knows that Benedict XVI is perfectly capable of carrying on his work because he knew, studied, and committed himself.

His role is to be “glass” — i.e., transparent, clean, and honest — but also a gatekeeper for those who want to get closer to the pope. This is what he has always done and tries to do in this book.

One could discuss at length whether or not it was prudent to publish the book right after the death of the pope emeritus. However, the message Gänswein wants to send is not that of controversy. Gänswein recounts his years with Benedict XVI, even removing a few pebbles from his shoe, but without entering into polemical tones with anyone.

The publication has likely done Gänswein more harm than good for now because it has allowed a campaign against him and, consequently, against the pontificate of Benedict XVI.

And yet, the pages written by the personal secretary of the late pope emeritus appear sincere, full of unpublished works and unknown stories. They are the pages of a faithful servant and of a man raised in the school of Benedict XVI; that is to say, accustomed to making God the center of everything.

PHOTOS: Remembering Cardinal Pell

Cardinal George Pell / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 11, 2023 / 08:30 am (CNA).

Australian Cardinal George Pell died Tuesday in Rome at age 81 after suffering a cardiac arrest following a routine hip replacement surgery, his secretary confirmed to EWTN.

Church leaders in Australia reacted with sadness and shock at the news of Pell’s death. “May eternal light now be his, who so steadfastly believed in the God of Jesus Christ,” Comensoli wrote on Twitter.

At his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis praised Pell’s dedication to the Church.

“I offer sentiments of heartfelt condolence,” the pope said in a Jan. 11 message, “remembering with a grateful heart his consistent and committed witness, his dedication to the Gospel and the Church, and particularly his diligent cooperation with the Holy See in the context of its recent economic reform, of which he laid the foundations with determination and wisdom.”

The prime minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese, said a memorial Mass will be held for Pell at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, where he will be buried, according to Sky News Australia.

Pell’s funeral Mass will be held at the Vatican. The date has not yet been announced.

Pell, prefect emeritus of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, recently remembered Pope Benedict XVI during an EWTN News In Depth Interview shortly after the late pope's death.

The Australian was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in October 2003, while he was archbishop of Sydney. Ten years later, Pope Francis appointed Pell a member of his Council of Cardinals, and the year after, he put him in charge of Vatican finances.

In 2017, Pell left Rome for Australia to defend his innocence of abuse charges. After 404 days in prison he was ultimately acquitted in 2020. He returned to live in Rome on Sept. 30, 2020, his first visit back to the city since his trial and imprisonment.

Below are photos of Pell throughout his time as cardinal.

Newly appointed Cardinal George Pell of Australia kisses Pope John Paul II's hand in St. Peter's Square Oct. 21, 2003, at the Vatican during the ordination ceremony of new cardinals. Photo by PAOLO COCCO/AFP via Getty Images
Newly appointed Cardinal George Pell of Australia kisses Pope John Paul II's hand in St. Peter's Square Oct. 21, 2003, at the Vatican during the ordination ceremony of new cardinals. Photo by PAOLO COCCO/AFP via Getty Images
Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal George Pell smile at one another while thanking all the volunteers at The Domain on July 21, 2008, in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal George Pell smile at one another while thanking all the volunteers at The Domain on July 21, 2008, in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, unveils Australia's first pure gold (L) and silver (R) coins commemorating the canonization of Mary MacKillop in Sydney on Sept. 30, 2010. Photo by TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP via Getty Images
Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, unveils Australia's first pure gold (L) and silver (R) coins commemorating the canonization of Mary MacKillop in Sydney on Sept. 30, 2010. Photo by TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP via Getty Images
Australian Cardinal George Pell (R) and Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze arrive for a meeting on the eve of the start of a conclave on March 11, 2013, at the Vatican. Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images
Australian Cardinal George Pell (R) and Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze arrive for a meeting on the eve of the start of a conclave on March 11, 2013, at the Vatican. Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images
Australian Cardinal George Pell as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy of the Holy See attends a press conference on March 31, 2014, at the Vatican. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images
Australian Cardinal George Pell as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy of the Holy See attends a press conference on March 31, 2014, at the Vatican. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images
Cardinal George Pell leaves the opening session of the Synod on the themes of family at Synod Hall on Oct. 5, 2015, in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by Giulio Origlia/Getty Images)
Cardinal George Pell leaves the opening session of the Synod on the themes of family at Synod Hall on Oct. 5, 2015, in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by Giulio Origlia/Getty Images)
Australian Cardinal George Pell on June 29, 2017. Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images
Australian Cardinal George Pell on June 29, 2017. Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images
Former archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell attends the Chrism Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on April 13, 2017, in Vatican City, Vatican. Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images
Former archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell attends the Chrism Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on April 13, 2017, in Vatican City, Vatican. Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images
Cardinal George Pell arrives at Melbourne County Court on Feb. 27, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia.  Michael Dodge/Getty Images
Cardinal George Pell arrives at Melbourne County Court on Feb. 27, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. Michael Dodge/Getty Images
Cardinal George Pell gives an interview to EWTN News in Rome, Italy, on Dec. 9, 2020. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Cardinal George Pell gives an interview to EWTN News in Rome, Italy, on Dec. 9, 2020. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Australian Cardinal George Pell leaves after being released from Barwon Prison near Anakie, some 70 kilometers west of Melbourne, on April 7, 2020. Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images
Australian Cardinal George Pell leaves after being released from Barwon Prison near Anakie, some 70 kilometers west of Melbourne, on April 7, 2020. Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images
Former Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell attends the Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on April 16, 2022, in Vatican City, Vatican. Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images
Former Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell attends the Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on April 16, 2022, in Vatican City, Vatican. Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images
Cardinal George Pell at the annual Eucharistic procession at the Angelicum in Rome, May 13, 2021. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Cardinal George Pell at the annual Eucharistic procession at the Angelicum in Rome, May 13, 2021. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Pope Francis praises Cardinal George Pell’s dedication to the Church

Pope Francis receives Cardinal George Pell in a private audience at the Vatican Oct. 12, 2020. / Vatican Media.

Rome Newsroom, Jan 11, 2023 / 05:32 am (CNA).

Pope Francis has praised the witness, dedication, and faith of Cardinal George Pell, who died in Rome on Tuesday at the age of 81.

“I offer sentiments of heartfelt condolence,” the pope said in a Jan. 11 message, “remembering with a grateful heart his consistent and committed witness, his dedication to the Gospel and the Church, and particularly his diligent cooperation with the Holy See in the context of its recent economic reform, of which he laid the foundations with determination and wisdom.”

Pell, prefect emeritus of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, suffered a cardiac arrest and died at 8:50 p.m. Rome time on Jan. 10, following a routine hip replacement surgery, his secretary confirmed to EWTN.

Pope Francis’ telegram expressed his sorrow at the Australian prelate’s death, and assured Pell’s brother, David Pell, of his sympathy.

“I raise prayers of suffrage so that this faithful servant, who without wavering followed his Lord with perseverance even in his hour of trial, may be welcomed into the joy of heaven and receive the reward of eternal peace,” the pope said.

The prime minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese, said a memorial Mass will be held for Pell at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, where he will be buried, according to Sky News Australia.

The bells of St. Mary’s Cathedral tolled 81 times on Jan. 11 to mark the cardinal’s death.

Pell’s funeral Mass will be held at the Vatican. The date has not yet been announced.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney said Jan. 11 his predecessor “will be remembered as a courageous leader who inspired so many clergy and lay faithful around the world to proclaim Christ crucified, risen and with us still.”

“Cardinal Pell’s episcopal motto was ‘Be Not Afraid’ and through good days and bad, he lived up to these words as a man of courage and with a big heart, who trusted in divine providence,” Fisher said.

The archbishop said he was grateful to have had an opportunity to see Pell at the funeral of Pope Benedict XVI in Rome on Jan. 5.

The former archbishop of Sydney “fearlessly proclaimed the Gospel and worked to explain the teachings of the Church,” Fisher said. “He spoke truth as he found it, however difficult or unpopular. He was also a man of prayer, of deep Christian faith and a loving shepherd to his flock in parishes, schools, hospitals, and throughout his dioceses.”

Pope Francis: We don’t have to be perfect to evangelize

Pope Francis stops to pray before an image of Our Lady and the Child Jesus during his weekly general audience on Jan. 11, 2023. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jan 11, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).

We do not have to be perfect already to live in a way that gives witness to Christ and attracts others to him, Pope Francis said on Wednesday.

At his weekly public audience on Jan. 11, Francis reflected on Jesus’ calling of St. Matthew, then a tax collector, to follow him as one of his Twelve Apostles.

“Here is the message for us: we do not have to wait until we are perfect and have come a long way following Jesus to witness to him; no, our proclamation begins today, there where we live,” he said.

Pope Francis smiles with two religious sisters during his general audience on Jan. 11, 2023. Vatican Media
Pope Francis smiles with two religious sisters during his general audience on Jan. 11, 2023. Vatican Media

Speaking in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis emphasized that evangelization and proselytism are not the same.

“And it does not begin by trying to convince others, but by witnessing every day to the beauty of the Love that has looked upon us and lifted us up,” he said.

Francis recalled a line from a homily given by Pope Benedict XVI at a meeting of Latin American and Caribbean bishops in Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007: “The Church does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by ‘attraction.’”

“Do not forget this,” Pope Francis added, calling Christians who proselytize “pagans dressed as Christians.”

Pope Francis greets an elderly couple at his general audience on Jan. 11, 2023. Vatican Media
Pope Francis greets an elderly couple at his general audience on Jan. 11, 2023. Vatican Media

The pope’s general audience message was the first in a new series of catechesis, or teachings, on apostolic zeal.

“It is a vital dimension for the Church,” he explained. “It can happen, however, that the apostolic ardor, the desire to reach others with the good news of the Gospel, diminishes.”

“When Christian life loses sight of the horizon of proclamation, it grows sick,” he continued, “it closes in on itself, becomes self-referential, it becomes atrophied. Without apostolic zeal, faith withers. Mission, on the other hand, is the oxygen of Christian life: It invigorates and purifies it.”

The pope said the way in which Jesus called St. Matthew to leave his former life behind is an example for Christians today.

Pope Francis speaks to a family during his general audience on Jan. 11, 2023. Vatican Media
Pope Francis speaks to a family during his general audience on Jan. 11, 2023. Vatican Media

He recalled that Matthew, as a tax collector for the Roman empire, would have been viewed by others as a “publican” and a traitor to the people.

“But in the eyes of Jesus, Matthew is a man, with both his miseries and his greatness,” he said.

Jesus, Francis emphasized, does not see someone as the “adjectives” that are used to describe him or her, but as a person.

“We can ask ourselves: How do we look upon others? How often do we see their faults and not their needs; how often do we label people by what they do or think?” he said. “Even as Christians we say to ourselves: Is he one of us or not? This is not the gaze of Jesus: He always looks at each person with mercy, actually, with predilection.”

“And Christians,” Pope Francis said, “are called to do as Christ did, looking like him, especially at the so-called ‘distant ones.’ Indeed, Matthew’s account of the call ends with Jesus saying, ‘I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

Australian Cardinal George Pell dies at 81

Cardinal George Pell gives an interview to EWTN News in Rome, Italy, on Dec. 9, 2020. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA. / null

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 10, 2023 / 16:15 pm (CNA).

Cardinal George Pell, prefect emeritus of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, died on Tuesday at the age of 81.

The Australian prelate suffered a cardiac arrest and died at 8:50 p.m. Rome time, his secretary confirmed to EWTN. 

A towering figure of the Church both physically and intellectually, Pell served for many years as archbishop of Melbourne and then Sydney before Pope Francis appointed him to lead the Vatican’s economy department in 2014.

He recently remembered Pope Benedict XVI during an EWTN News In Depth Interview shortly after the late pope’s death.

Asked about his reaction to the news on Dec. 31, the cardinal said: “I was very sad” since “I had known him well enough, I admired what he was about, I thought he was very good for the Church and so it was sad to see another wonderful phase in Church history ending.”

George Pell was born on June 8, 1941, in Ballarat, a town in Victoria, to an English-born Anglican father and a devout Catholic mother of Irish descent. 

Pell was ordained a priest for the diocese in 1966. He was made an auxiliary bishop of Melbourne in 1987, and nine years later he was named archbishop of Melbourne.

In 2001 he was appointed archbishop of Sydney, where he served until being appointed by Pope Francis to take charge of the newly created Secretariat for the Economy and to lead efforts at reforming Vatican financial affairs in 2014.

The Australian was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in October 2003, while he was archbishop of Sydney. Ten years later, Pope Francis appointed Pell a member of his Council of Cardinals, and the year after, he put him in charge of Vatican finances.

In 2017, Pell left Rome for Australia to defend his innocence of abuse charges. After 404 days in prison he was ultimately acquitted in 2020. He returned to live in Rome on Sept. 30, 2020, his first visit back to the city since his trial and imprisonment.

Cardinal Pell’s prison journal, written while he was in solitary confinement, is being published in three volumes. He has said he could not offer Mass in jail because he was not allowed access to wine for use in the consecration.

In 2021, Pell turned 80 years old, losing his eligibility to vote in a future papal conclave.

On May 13, 2021, Pell led a eucharistic procession at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, also known as the Angelicum, in Rome, where he explained that during his 13 months in jail, he was “unable to celebrate Mass and attend Mass.”

“I listened to many Protestant preachers, and I became even more aware of the centrality of the liturgical celebration. It’s a making present of Christ’s sacrifice. It’s an explicit act of adoration. It involves the whole of our persons. It needs faith to be practiced,” he said.

This is a developing story.

Investigation into ‘Vatican Girl’ cold case reopened amid rekindled public interest

From the Netflix documentary series, "Vatican Girl: The Disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi" / Netflix

St. Louis, Mo., Jan 10, 2023 / 10:30 am (CNA).

The Vatican promoter of justice announced Monday that the investigation into the vanishing of Emanuela Orlandi, a teenaged Vatican citizen whose disappearance in the 1980s has since spawned myriad conspiracy theories, will be reopened. 

In a brief statement posted to Vatican News, the Holy See Press Office director, Matteo Bruni, reported Monday that the decision to reopen the investigation was made partly in response to several requests made by Orlandi’s family.

Bruni said the promoter of justice — essentially the prosecutor — for the Vatican, Alessandro Diddi, had confirmed this decision to once more open the case, which has been closed for nearly three years. 

Emanuela Orlandi was the 15-year-old daughter of Ercole Orlandi, an envoy of the Prefecture of the Pontifical House and a citizen of Vatican City State. Her disappearance on June 22, 1983, after leaving for a music lesson in Rome dominated headlines and has been the subject of speculation for years. 

In April 2020, a Vatican judge officially closed the case, which had been reopened the previous year after members of Orlandi’s family received a tip that the girl’s remains could be in a Vatican cemetery. That investigation ultimately authorized the opening of two tombs in the cemetery of the Teutonic College, which sits on Vatican-owned property adjacent to the city-state; those graves were found to be completely empty, and in an unexpected twist, Vatican officials discovered “thousands” of human bones — not Orlandi’s — in a previously unknown ossuary nearby. 

Scientific tests carried out in July 2019 on bone fragments found in connection to the investigation revealed the bones to be too old to be Orlandi’s remains, according to Vatican statements at the time.

The Vatican statement did not elaborate further on the reasons why the case is being reopened, but public interest in the case was rekindled last fall after the release of “Vatican Girl: The Disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi” on Netflix. 

The true-crime docuseries, directed by Mark Lewis, premiered on the streaming service in October 2022. The series featured interviews with subjects who proffer numerous theories about Orlandi’s disappearance, none of which have been substantiated. 

Almost two weeks after she disappeared, Pope John Paul II mentioned her in his weekly Angelus prayer and asked those responsible for her disappearance to come forward. Shortly after this, her family began receiving telephone calls from people claiming to be associated with Turkish nationalist groups, who said they had kidnapped Orlandi as a bargaining chip to secure the release of Mehmet Ali Ağca, John Paul’s would-be assassin. Ağca has later claimed several times, most recently in 2006, that Orlandi is alive and well, perhaps in a convent. This has never been confirmed. 

Others speculate that the Italian mafia was involved in her disappearance or that she was kidnapped on the order of a cleric to send a message to her Vatican-employed father.

The docuseries saves for the final episode the theory that the Vatican was involved in some way in Orlandi’s disappearance, based on a new interview with a childhood friend of the missing girl. The Vatican denies having any role in her disappearance. 

The Orlandi family lawyer, Lauro Sgrò, told the Wall Street Journal on Monday that the family had learned about the decision from news reports. 

“We are happy and we trust there will be a careful and in-depth investigation. If any responsibility lies within the Vatican, it is time for that to emerge. We need to deliver the truth to the family,” Sgrò told the Wall Street Journal. 

Lewis, the docuseries director, makes clear that he does not claim to have solved the mystery of Orlandi’s disappearance but said he hopes, “for the family’s sake, those last few [puzzle] pieces are found.”