Cardinal George Pell has died aged 81 in Vatican City after complications from hip surgery.
He was Australia’s highest-ranked Catholic cleric and one of the most senior Catholics in the world. He also served jail time for child sex offences for which he was later acquitted.
Here’s a summary of his life.
Rise to leadership
Pell became a Catholic priest in 1966. He was appointed Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 and of Sydney in 2001.
In 2003, he joined the College of Cardinals, a group of senior Church leaders below the Pope.
In 2014, he was placed in charge of the Vatican’s finances, which made him one of the world’s highest-ranking Catholics.
Pell was a social conservative and a prominent advocate for the Church’s traditional views on sexual morality.
“I think there’s no doubt that my social conservatism, the fact that I actually defend Christian teachings on life, family, sexuality… is irritating to a lot of people,” Pell told the BBC in 2020.
Church sexual abuse
As Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996, Pell led the introduction of a compensation scheme for victims of child sexual abuse, known as the ‘Melbourne Response’.
In 2015, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found the response was “not sufficiently independent” of the Church.
The Commission also concluded that Pell knew about sexual abuse by Church clergy members but failed to take adequate action. Pell disputed this finding.
Pell himself faced multiple allegations of sexually abusing children. He denied all allegations.
He served time in prison after he was convicted of sexually abusing two choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996 while he was Archbishop of Melbourne. This conviction was later unanimously overturned by the High Court, which found the jury should have had reasonable doubt about his guilt.
Pell was also sued for financial damages on several occasions by alleged victims and their families.