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ROME – Following the surprise death of Australian Cardinal George Pell late Tuesday Rome time, Pope Francis has praised the 81-year-old prelate as a “faithful servant, who, without faltering, followed his Lord with perseverance even in the hour of trial.”

Without being specific, the pope appeared to be referring to charges of sexual abuse lodged against Pell in his native country in 2018, for which he was convicted and spent 13 months in prison before being exonerated by Australia’s supreme court.

Francis also praised Pell for his role as the first-ever Secretary for the Economy in the Vatican, referring to “his solid collaboration with the Holy See in the context of its recent economic reform, for which he laid the foundations with determination and wisdom.”

The full text of the pope’s message, which was addressed to Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re as Dean of the College of Cardinals, follows.

“I have sadly learned of the news of the passing of Cardinal George Pell, prefect emeritus of the Secretariat for the Economy. I wish to express to you and to the College of Cardinals, in a special way to the dear brother David and to other family members, my closeness.”

“I extend feelings of live condolences, remembering with a grateful heart his coherent and committed witness; his dedication to the Gospel and to the Church; and particularly his solid collaboration with the Holy See in the context of its recent economic reform, for which he laid the foundations with determination and wisdom.”

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

“Sending to you, to the family of the departed, and to those who share in the sorrow at his passing, my blessing.”