Cardinal George Pell, who was then convicted of child sexual abuse, has died at the age of 81.

Cardinal George Pell, the conservative theologian who served as Pope Francis’ Vatican chief monetary officer and was acquitted after turning into essentially the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted of pedophilia, died Tuesday in Rome. He was 81 years previous.

His demise was confirmed by Peter Comnisoli, one in every of his successors as Archbishop of Melbourne, who mentioned the cardinal had died of coronary heart issues after present process hip surgical procedure. Cardinal Pell was in Rome to attend Funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI final week.

Cardinal Pell has spent greater than a yr in solitary confinement in his native Australia after a jury discovered him responsible in 2018 of assaulting two younger choristers at Melbourne Cathedral when he was town’s archbishop within the Nineties. An Australian Excessive Court docket overturned his conviction in 2020.

Even after his acquittal, the cardinal remained a polarizing determine in Australia and the Church. To his critics, he was a logo of the abuse disaster. To his supporters, he was a scapegoat focused by enemies of the Church.

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Cardinal Pell, who additionally served as Archbishop of Sydney, established one of many world’s first packages to compensate victims of kid sexual abuse. However critics say he has overseen a tradition of secrecy, utilizing this system — which requires victims to waive their proper to civil authorized motion — to silence them.

A high-profile Australian investigation referred to as A.J Royal Feestarted investigating pedophilia within the Catholic Church and different establishments in 2013. It discovered that the cardinal knew of kid molestation by clergy within the Nineteen Seventies, however didn’t take enough steps to handle it.

The cardinal instructed the inquiry in 2016 that he didn’t know if the crimes of Gerald Ridsdale — a priest who was transferred from parish to parish by the church within the Nineteen Seventies and Eighties, and later convicted on dozens of kid sexual abuse fees — have been. basic data.

“It is a unhappy story and it wasn’t of a lot curiosity to me,” Cardinal Peel mentioned mentioned the investigation. “The struggling was, in fact, actual and I’m very sorry for it, however I had no cause to show my thoughts to the extent of the evils achieved by Ridsdal.”

Cardinal Pell gave proof to the inquiry by way of video hyperlink from Rome after his attorneys mentioned he was too in poor health to journey to Australia. Bell suffered from hypertension, coronary heart illness, and cardiac dysfunction, and one of many medical doctors concluded that the lengthy flight was harmful to his well being.

George Bell was born in Ballarat, a gold mining city within the Australian state of Victoria, on June 8, 1941. His father was an Anglican non-practice and heavyweight boxing champion. His mom was a religious Catholic.

In his youth, he performed Australian guidelines soccer, and his pure athleticism and towering body — he was over 6 ft tall — noticed him signal a contract with a serious membership whereas nonetheless a teen. He selected to pursue a profession within the priesthood as an alternative, and was ordained at St. Peter’s Basilica in 1966.

He rapidly rose via the ranks of the Roman Catholic Church, turning into essentially the most highly effective Australian within the historical past of the clergy, and an ally of Pope Benedict when he led the Church, and later of Pope Francis. (Benedict made a uncommon go to to L Australia in 2008.)

Cardinal Pell held orthodox views on modern social points, together with same-sex relations, abortion, and the function of girls within the clergy. He cast shut ties with Australia’s conservative political institution, together with former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a religious Catholic, go to him in jail.

In a 2001 radio interview, Cardinal steered that {couples} contemplating divorce needs to be supplied monetary incentives to remain collectively. In the identical interview, he mentioned He mentioned There was no “chance” for the church to have feminine priestesses. He as soon as described Avatar – on the time the highest-grossing movie in Australian historical past – as “old school pagan propaganda”.

In 2002, Cardinal Pell was criticized by sufferer help teams for remarking that “abortion is a worse ethical scandal than clergymen sexually abusing younger individuals.” He didn’t retract the remark when interviewed by The Sydney Morning Herald after few daysthough he claimed his authentic statements have been quoted out of context as a result of they didn’t embrace his condemnation of sexual abuse within the church.

In distinction to his hardline conservative stance on the Church’s ethical teachings, the cardinal was a monetary reformer who was recruited to the Vatican by Pope Francis in 2014 and tasked with overhauling its funds. This concentrate on transparency – honed throughout his early years in Australia – induced him to fall out with church paperwork over his makes an attempt to audit The Origins and Spending of the Vatican.

Though Cardinal Peel’s profession was efficient He was derailed when he returned to Australia in 2017 to defend himself in opposition to allegations of sexual assault, and one of many legacies of his time checking the books was the Vatican mount. corruption Investigation.

In a press release on Wednesday, Abbott, the right-wing former prime minister, known as Cardinal Pell’s imprisonment “a contemporary type of crucifixion. Reputationally at the least some sort of residing demise.”

Within the 2018 sexual assault At trial, the prosecution relied on the proof of a former choirboy who was in his 30s and had a younger household. He reported the alleged abuse to police in 2015, after one other former teen died of a drug overdose. The opposite choirboy by no means made public accusations in opposition to Cardinal Peel. (Prosecutors dropped a separate sexual assault case after the trial started.)

Cardinal Pell’s accuser, whose identify has not been publicly launched, mentioned he revered the acquittal and accepted the end result. He mentioned it highlighted the difficulties in baby sexual abuse circumstances to persuade a prison courtroom that the crime occurred past all cheap doubt.

“It’s a very excessive customary to satisfy – a heavy burden,” he mentioned in a press release on the time. “However the worth we pay for tipping the system in favor of the accused is that many sexual crimes in opposition to kids go unpunished.”

Miles Pattenden, a historian on the Australian Catholic College, mentioned the cardinal was a “very polarizing determine” admired by a minority of Australian Catholics for his upholding of conventional morality.

However many Australians noticed him as “complicit in protecting up pedophilia”, Pattenden mentioned, and as a person “standing behind some abusive clergymen now convicted to an inconceivable diploma”.

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