Church in Australia reacts with ‘shock,’ sadness at news of Cardinal Pell’s death

AC Wimmer By AC Wimmer for CNA

Australian Cardinal George Pell pictured celebrating the White Mass for medical professionals and health care workers at the Diocese of Phoenixís Virginia G. Piper Chapel in Phoenix Nov. 20, 2021. (CNS photo/Jeff Grant)

CNA Newsroom, Jan 10, 2023 / 18:17 pm (CNA).

The Catholic Church in Australia reacted with surprise and sadness at the news of the death of Cardinal George Pell, with one former prime minister saying the country had “lost a great son and the Church has lost a great leader.”

Pell, prefect emeritus of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, died Tuesday in Rome at the age of 81 from cardiac arrest.

“This news comes as a great shock to all of us,” Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney said in a first reaction on Facebook.

“Please pray for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Pell, for comfort and consolation for his family and for all of those who loved him and are grieving him at this time.”

Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne reacted “with great sadness” to the news, writing on Twitter: “May eternal light now be his, who so steadfastly believed in the God of Jesus Christ.”

“Larger than life, Cardinal Pell was a highly intelligent and well-read man who took a genuine interest in everyone around him,” Bishop Richard Umbers, an auxiliary bishop in Sydney, said on Twitter.

“A pioneer for much good in Sydney, Australia, and the entire church. Please join me in praying for the repose of his soul. Requiescat in pace.”

Many faithful added personal messages on social media, with one mourner writing: “Rest In Peace, my dear Cardinal, in the arms of the Lord. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26.”

Another commentator said: “I have no doubt that Cardinal George Pell will be watching over our church throughout the days to come.”

Appointed in 2014 as the first prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, Pell served as archbishop of Sydney from 2001 to 2014. Before that, he was archbishop of Melbourne from 1996 to 2001.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott wrote in a statement published on Twitter that Australia had “lost a great son and the Church has lost a great leader.”

Abbott, who briefly trained as a Catholic seminarian, praised Pell as a “committed defender of Catholic orthodoxy and a staunch advocate for the virtues of Western Civilization.”

Born in 1941 in the town of Ballarat, Pell was ordained a priest at St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, in 1966. He studied both at the Pontifical University Urbaniana and the University of Oxford.

As the highest-ranking Australian prelate of the Church and an outspoken public figure, Pell was described as “progressive on many social issues” but frequently polarized public opinion when it came to morality and the faith.

“As an ecclesiastical and cultural conservative, he attracted praise and blame from all the expected quarters,” the former prime minister of Australia wrote.

“In fact, he was a very pastoral priest who well understood the human stain and was more than capable of empathizing with sinners while still counseling against sin.”

Referring to Pell’s time in prison for alleged sexual abuse, Abbott added: “His incarceration on charges that the High Court ultimately scathingly dismissed was a modern form of crucifixion; reputationally at least a kind of living death.”

“In his own way, by dealing so equably with a monstrous allegation, he strikes me as a saint for our times.”

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  1. May I quote Cardinal Pell re the child abuse perpetrated by his housemate Fr Ridsdale:
    “It’s a sad story and it was t much interest to me.
    I had no reason to turn my mind to the extent of the evils
    that Ridsdale had perpetrated.”
    Cardinal George Pell. 2016.
    Royal Commision into the Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse.
    May this be his epitaph. A follower of Jesus in the position he held in Ballarat would have every reason to be interested and engaged in mitigating damage. Having advocated for victims and attended the launch of his Melbourne Response, His lack of action, a dereliction of duty.

    Infamous for the Ellis Response:
    among many other equally callous examples of hypocrisy. My uncle was on the Oakleigh Parish council, my parish was a few miles away

    What is clearly evident is Cardinal Pell did not model the character of Jesus who we are called to follow. This is our primary calling as a church. He chose damage control and the persuit of the preservation of financial wealth over ministering to the need of those betrayed in the most fundamental and damaging ways for the child. How dare the church turn a bling eye and deny the truth of this!

    Pell in this respect seemed to be witness to “Follow the money before following and emulating the character and person of Jesus.

    • I think comments disparaging the recently deceased bare a witness of their own. At the very least it’s unseemly.
      There have been plenty of prior opportunities to express those thoughts. This is not a respectful moment to do so. It’s not good manners.

  2. I wondered whether the person who hates Cardinal Pell and spent huge amounts of time insisting, in the face of all evidence and in the face of his acquittal, that he was guilty, was going to slither in and post something snide. And, behold!

    He provides a quotation from the Royal Commission report, which is the Holy Writ to which he clings religiously:

    Since only a tiny snippet was quoted, here are links to transcripts of Cardinal Pell’s testimony to the Hatchet J….. oh, excuse me, the Royal Commission: the first day of testimony, February 29, 2016 which is the source of the quotation provided March 1, 2016 March 2, 2016 in which the Cardinal discusses amplifies, and clarifies the original statement March 3, 2016

    Bearing false witness is a sin. Though diminished mental capacity is, I believe, considered a mitigating factor.

    • At no stage in my comment did I indicate that I held a position regarding the abuse accusations. My comments exclusively pertain to Cardinal Pells response as a church leader to the abuse perpetrated by other parish priests. So re framing of my statements and your following argument is irrelevant to my truth telling. A response such as this article to Cardinal Passing passing is clear evidence of cognitive dissonance that damages the corporate witness and mission of the Body of Christ. My comment bears much needed witness to the Truth in these mattes of great weight. Lies and deflection abound while the secular world looks on. The extent to which we knowingly deny the truth when given the facts is the extent to which we deny Jesus. If contextual truth was a part of the above article’s celebration of Cardinal Pells life I would have no need to emphasise the negative aspects that impacted the most vulnerable and mos wounded victims of profoundly errant behaviour by clergy! But no… silence and denial is the way chosen in the writing of this article. A fool’s errand.

      • The “Royal Commission” faults Pell with trying to shield the Church from sexual abuse lawsuits. Of course he did that, and that was absolutely the right thing to do. No one, on account of having been the victim of a pervert, should be permitted to enrich himself at the expense of innocent Catholics who finance their parish, their schools, their charitable foundations, their diocese. If you want to pursue criminal charges against sexual abusers, within the proper statute of limitations for criminal allegations, all well and good. I would wish for a long prison sentence for any abuser (provided, of course, that there is real evidence against the accused, which quite often is not the case). But not one dime – apart from the costs of recovery therapies – should be paid to victims, and certainly nothing to the vulture attorneys who are the driving force behind these legal actions in the first place.

      • “At no stage in my comment did I indicate that I held a position regarding the abuse accusations.”

        Maybe not in this post, but in many others on this site in reference to Cardinal Pell, as many of us accurately recall. You operate under a false assumption that readers here have forgotten you and the false accusations, slander, and lies you repeatedly made against Pell on this very site. All in spite of clear evidence pointing to his innocence.

        As I’ve written before, we haven’t forgotten. We know who you are, and we remember what you said. If you are sincere in your faith, I would recommend redirecting this pathological focus on Cardinal Pell toward addressing the deep sin in your own heart regarding these matters. And you owe Cardinal Pell, and us, an apology for your words and conduct.

    • Yes, thanks for noting and exposing this fraud. I also remember Chris Hallam’s repeated, baseless, and vicious attacks on Pell on this site. As you also noted, those attacks continued despite clear evidence of Pell’s innocence. Funny how some people think they’re pulling the wool over some people’s eyes.

      • Athanasius, from early in my discussions here I have consistently maintained and repeatedly clarified my position, that is, no one but Cardinal Pell and the young man know the truth of the matter. My response to this article has nothing to do with that matter. I say this for the benefit of readers unaware of prior discussion threads. Any one is free to test the veracity of this by review of discussions related to Cardinal Pell. Can anyone point to a passage of my writing that steadfastly stated the Cardinal was guilty of the crime is sexual abuse? I have stated there were several situations where Cardinal Pell was accused, But again I stand by the above claim.
        It is concerning that you continue to misrepresent what I have said. I suppose the reason is that such distraction focuses the readership on matters other than my stated contribution. Any diligent unbiased researcher can sort the truth from the misrepresentation.

        • No one is misrepresenting or misunderstanding you, let’s be perfectly clear about that. You are not the victim here. Slandering others is not a “contribution.” What is this pathological compulsion to constantly slander an innocent man? What is this pathological assumption that you can repeatedly post false statements maligning an innocent man’s character on a public site expecting not to be held accountable for what you say? What is this game about, presenting yourself as a misunderstood victim when you are, in fact, the guilty party, as others have also noted here? As I have repeatedly stated, we know who you are and we remember what you have said. I stand with other readers who have called you out on this. Enough is enough.

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