The former Archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne and Prefect of the Vatican Department for the Economy died suddenly in Rome at the age of 81. He spent more than 400 days in prison on infamous accusations of pedophilia that the Australian High Court later found to be unsubstantiated. The memory of the Archbishop of Mumbai: “In September he had spoken to us about the importance of the family to revitalize Christian life. He was looking to the future, not the past.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Many Catholic Churches in Asia are currently remembering with emotion the figure of Australian Cardinal George Pell, prefect emeritus of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, who died last night in Rome at the age of 81. The cardinal died due to complications derived from a hip replacement operation, after having participated a few days ago in the funeral of Benedict XVI. From 2001 to 2014 Card. Pell had been Archbishop of Sydney and previously Auxiliary Bishop and then Archbishop of Melbourne, as well as President of Caritas Australia. In all these functions he had had the opportunity to offer his watchful eye to the path of the peoples of Asia.
He was called to Rome by Pope Francis to carry out the difficult task of reforming the Ministry of the Economy, but his work was forcibly interrupted by infamous accusations of pedophilia dating back to his time as a parish priest in his hometown of Ballarat. To defend himself against these accusations he left his post in the Vatican and returned to his homeland, to proclaim his innocence in court. In 2018, however, he was found guilty by the Victorian State District Court, which sentenced him to six years in prison. Only after serving more than 400 days did the Australian High Court exonerate him in April 2020, after unanimously deciding to release him. A sad story that card. Pell recalls in a memoir titled “Prison Diary”. Pope Francis publicly thanked him for his testimony.
“The imprint that Card. Pell left in the life of the Church in Australia and in the world it will be felt for many years to come,” Bishop wrote in a note. Timothy Costelloe, president of the Australian Bishops’ Conference. Card. Oswald Gracias, who had the opportunity to work with him for a long time on the Council of Cardinals and – before that – on the Vox Clara commission, chaired by Pell, which between 2000 and 2002 produced the last English translation of the Missal. “He was a good friend, a man of clear vision and dedicated to his people – said Card. Thanks to AsiaNews – Knowing him, I was convinced from the beginning that the accusations against him were false.”
The card. Pell was last in Mumbai in September last year to attend a meeting on the future of family and marriage in Asia, sponsored by the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture. “It was he who proposed Mumbai as the venue – recalls Gracias – and I was very happy. In his theology and spirituality Pell was faithful to tradition, and always went to the roots. Also on that occasion he insisted on this to show the importance of the family in the revitalization of Christian life.
“He was a man who did not let himself be discouraged by trials,” added the Archbishop of Mumbai. “On that occasion he did not speak of his problems, but of the future of the Church. A man of God, of deep faith, a man without resentment, a very determined man. He wanted to get over the past and look forward. He impressed me a lot.”