ROME – A funeral Mass for the late Australian Cardinal George Pell, who died suddenly on Tuesday after suffering complications following a routine surgery, will be celebrated Saturday in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The funeral will be celebrated at 11:30a.m. Saturday morning in St. Peter’s Basilica, according to a statement from the Vatican’s liturgical office. Pell was ordained a priest in St. Peter’s in 1966 by Armenian Cardinal Gregorio Pietro Agagianian, one of the protagonists of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).
Pell died late Tuesday due to complications following a routine hip surgery at Rome’s Salvator Mundi hospital at the age of 81.
His death comes on the heels of the passing of retired Pope Benedict XVI, who died Dec. 31 and whose Jan. 5 funeral Pell had attended.
The Vatican announcement confirmed that the Mass will be celebrated by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, currently Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, with the pope coming in at the end to offer the final valediction and commendation for the deceased.
After his Rome funeral, Pell’s body will be flown back to Australia, where it will be buried in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, where Pell served as archbishop for 13 years before moving to the Vatican in 2014 as head of the Secretariat for the Economy.
Long one of the Catholic Church’s most influential prelates, Pell played an outsized role in both local ecclesial affairs in Australia, having been a leader of the Australian church’s conservative bloc and in the Vatican.
A priest from the remote diocese of Ballarat, Pell was appointed as auxiliary bishop for Melbourne in 1987 and as archbishop in 1996. He was also appointed as a member of several Vatican departments, was named archbishop of Sydney in 2001 and was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2003.
In 2013, he was appointed to Pope Francis’s Council of Cardinal advisors and in 2014 was brought to the Vatican to lead the pope’s financial reforms as head of the Secretariat for the Economy.
He stepped down in 2017 when he was charged by Australian authorities of sexually abusing two minor boys while Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.
Pell returned to Australia to face the charges and, despite repeatedly insisting on his innocence, was unanimously convicted in a second trial, after the first ended in a hung jury. He was sentenced to six years behind bars and spent over 400 days in prison in isolation before he was eventually acquitted in April 2020 by Australia’s High Court.
In a telegram following Pell’s death, Pope Francis remembered Pell as a “faithful servant, who, without faltering, followed his Lord with perseverance even in the hour of trial.”
Since his death, it’s been confirmed that Pell was the author of an anonymous letter on the next conclave that circulated last year, in which Francis’s papacy was described as a “disaster,” and also that the last public essay penned by Pell was on the upcoming Synod of Bishops on synodality, which he characterized as a “toxic nightmare.”
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