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Remembering Cardinal Pell

On January 9th, in the Chapel of Our Lady of Pompeii, Queen of the Holy Rosary at Domus Australia, a Requiem Mass was celebrated for the repose of the soul of His Eminence George Cardinal Pell. The principal celebrant was Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In his homily, Cardinal Müller spoke about the false accusations against Cardinal Pell and his imprisonment. He said, “The persecution suffered by Cardinal Pell is the same persecution of Christians that recur throughout history in different guises. If you are looking for consolation in the distress of our time and want to assure yourself in Christ's word, ‘Do not be afraid. I have overcome the world.’”

Cardinal George Pell, prefect emeritus of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, died on Tuesday, January 10th, 2023, at the age of 81 due to cardiac arrest.

A towering figure of the Church both physically and intellectually, Pell served for many years as Archbishop of Melbourne and then Sydney before Pope Francis appointed him to lead the Vatican’s economy department in 2014.

Cardinal Müller also detailed aspects of Cardinal Pell’s personal life that led to his priestly vocation. He said, “Our brother, George Pell, born into a Christian family on June 8th, in 1941, amidst the Second World War, grew up in the Australian state of Victoria. With his athletic abilities and his high intellectual talent which emerged during his school education, a brilliant career in the world would have been open to him. But he decided to follow Christ's call to the priestly service.”

Cardinal Pell was ordained a priest for the diocese in 1966. He was made an Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne in 1987, and nine years later he was named Archbishop of Melbourne.

In 2001, he was appointed Archbishop of Sydney, where he served until Pope Francis appointed him to take charge of the newly created Secretariat for the Economy and to lead efforts at reforming Vatican financial affairs in 2014.

The Australian was made a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II in October 2003, while he was Archbishop of Sydney. Ten years later, Pope Francis appointed Pell a member of his Council of Cardinals, and the year after, he put him in charge of Vatican finances.

Cardinal Müller sees in Cardinal Pell the very words of Jesus lived out. He continued in his sermon, “The enemy does not sleep. In the case of the faithful servant of the Church Pell, Jesus’ words were proved shockingly true, ‘If they have persecuted me. They will also persecute you. They will do all this to you for my name's sake, for they do not know him who sent me, the Father.’”

The Cardinal explained, “While Archbishop George Pell cared for victims of sexual abuse in an exemplary and compassionate manner during his time in Australia, he was relentlessly pursued by a bloodthirsty mob and made himself a victim of justice by anti-Catholic agitators in the media and in the police apparatus.

The Cardinal was held in solitary confinement for 404 days, a wrongfully convicted man, until he was finally released from prison by the High Court of Australia in a historic vote, seven to zero.”

Cardinal Pell's impact in Australia is still present today, despite the years he lived in Rome away from his country.

Bishop Richard Umbers, Auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney, explained after the Mass in Suffrage for the repose of Cardinal Pell, “Look, I think the impact of Cardinal Pell is very visible in Sydney. He was also in Melbourne, but the work above all that we do with young adults. He was a big man with great vision and the last 20 years in the Archdiocese of Sydney have seen real growth and leadership amongst a number of young Catholics. You find an environment there which is quite extraordinary. A lot of life, especially in the area of university chaplaincy. He invested heavily in that area and took great interest in the next generation of leaders.”

A year after his death, many of Cardinal Pell's teachings remain, in particular, his legacy left to the Church and the faithful.

Fr. Joseph Hamilton, Rector of Domus Australia, encouraged us to look to the memory of Cardinal Pell in a particular manner, saying, “I think that his legacy needs to be correctly remembered. I was going through some of his papers about a week ago and I saw some of his work on Saint Cyprian of Carthage and that was very consonant with the Cardinal’s view of how we should have debate within the church. We are one Catholic Church. We have one faith; we have one Pope. One, one, one. We're one people. If we stand together, we're strong. If we're divided, we're weak.”

Adapted by Jacob Stein

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