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Breaking: Cardinal George Pell has died at age 81

The Australian cardinal had been admitted to a Rome hospital for routine hip replacement surgery on Tuesday afternoon.

Australian Cardinal George Pell holds a copy of his book, "Prison Journal," during an interview with Catholic News Service at his residence in Rome Dec. 18, 2020. (CNS photo/Robert Duncan)

From Edward Pentin at National Catholic Register:

Cardinal George Pell has died in Rome this evening at the age of 81.

The Australian cardinal had been admitted to a Rome hospital for routine hip replacement surgery on Tuesday afternoon.

The operation was successful, and he was in good spirits, but he later suffered a suspected cardiac arrest, according to his personal secretary, Father Joseph Hamilton, who added that they are awaiting an autopsy.

The Archdiocese of Sydney is expected to issue a statement shortly.  …

The cardinal had suffered from heart trouble for some time, and had a pacemaker fitted  in 2010.

And from The Pillar:

The cardinal underwent a hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, several sources told The Pillar, and reportedly died of complications from the surgery at approximately 8:50 p.m. in Rome.

The hip operation was initially deemed a success, with sources close to the cardinal saying that he had been able to make conversation with nurses in his recovery room, before he suddenly went into cardiac arrest shortly before he died.

Pell was appointed in 2014 the first prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, charged with implementing a program of financial reform in the Vatican. He was before that the Archbishop of Sydney, and had been before that Archbishop of Melbourne.

Pell was in 2018 convicted in Australia of committing sexual abuse during his time in Melbourne, but the conviction was in 2020 overturned by the High Court of Australia, after the cardinal spent nearly two years in prison.

But even while he faced criticism, Pell was regarded by many as one of the 20th century’s central figures in Australian Catholicism. He was regarded as a defender of orthodox Catholic doctrine, and an articulate spokesman for the evangelical and social mission of the Church.

More to come soon.

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About Carl E. Olson 1227 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.


  1. Even routine surgery is never without risk, especially as one ages. But I am sorry to hear this. I have no doubt in my own mind that his two year long imprisonment,the stress it caused, and the spiteful separation from his priestly functions and Communion during all those years , must have had a negative impact on his overall health. I think what the Australians did to him was despicable. In particular, forbidding him the ability to celebrate Mass because “wine is not allowed” was suppression of his religious freedoms and a permanent black mark on the Australians who enforced this inhumane rule. The Cardinal suffered this anti-catholic, biased treatment with admirable strength of mind and kept his faith. As an American who is generally an Anglophile, I will never ever feel the same as I once did toward the Australians. Rest in peace, Cardinal Pell.

    • May Cardinal Pell rest in peace. God bless him.
      My daughter in law is in her final year of training as a surgeon & she was told that surgery can place a similar strain on the body as running a marathon. If one’s older & not in condition to run a marathon surgeries should be carefully weighed against their risks.
      But that said, living with chronic pain is pretty stressful & limiting. Sometimes you’ll consider almost anything to relieve it. I was tempted to dose myself with my dog’s pain medication once. Seriously.
      Poor Cardinal Pell probably tried to make the best decision he could. I’m so sorry it worked out this way but praise God he was a free man in the final days of his life.

  2. Sadness at his passing, yet to be with the Lord i better by far. His was unjustly accused, suffered, however his faith and Christian character shone through. He was a good debater, yet with the Lord as guide, special things happen.

    1 Thessalonians 4:14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

  3. Michael Cook, editor of the Australian blog “MercatorNet: Navigating Modern Complexities” has posted an obituary for Cardinal Pell. It begins:

    Twitter has been running hot with hatred after the death of Australia’s Cardinal George Pell in Rome after minor surgery. If you can tell the quality of a man by the venom of his enemies, George Pell was indeed a mighty figure.

    He spent 405 days in jail for sexual abuse which he did not commit. He was exonerated by the High Court of Australia in a unanimous decision. And still the twitterati would not believe in his innocence.

    “Cardinal Pell died an innocent man,” Chris Merritt, The Australian’s Legal Affairs Contributor, said. “This might come as a terrible shock to those who were gripped by the frenzy – particularly in Victoria – that effectively amounted to a lynch mob before his trial and unsuccessful appeal in the Victorian Court of Appeal.

    • Rather like the uncontrolled mobs who killed thousands, including nuns and priests,and those convicted of the “crime” of being wealthy during the French Revolution.Virtually all innocent victims of hate and rage. I wouldn’t post on either Twitter or Facebook if you paid me money. It has long appeared to be the habitat of the uneducated, self-absorbed and uninformed. I can live without it. Further it appears to be populated by those who believe that any statement, any accusation,by anyone, should be accepted at face value as the truth, facts be damned. I don’t think so, which is why I won’t waste my time with these ill-informed howling mobs. I rather doubt that Cardinal Pell cared what they thought either. For those who believe an accusation is the same as evidence or truth, I refer you to the media notorious Tawana Brawley case , and the Duke Rape Case. Mr. Flynn, you are correct–a lunch mob indeed. Disgusting.

      • Thank you.

        Many of the comments at Daily Mail were particularly dimwitted, but a surprising number of people understood that evidence of a crime was simply not there.

    • Thank you for sharing this personal note. We like to be recipients of kindness, yet it is less freely given out these days.

      Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

      Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

      Proverbs 11:17 A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.

      Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

      Proverbs 31:26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

      God bless you as you endeavour to enlighten and encourage the flock of Jesus Christ.

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