Cardinal George Pell has been remembered as a man who experienced great suffering at a requiem mass at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, where Pope Francis gave the final blessing.
Cardinal Pell was farewelled on Saturday at the Vatican in the same church where he was ordained in 1966 and where Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s funeral was held earlier this month.
The most senior Australian member of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Pell died in Rome on January 10 at the age of 81 from heart complications following hip surgery.
The mass was led by an Italian cardinal, Giovanni Battista Re, in his role as Dean of the College of Cardinals, before the final blessing, delivered in Latin, was recited by Pope Francis.
Cardinal Pell was the Vatican’s top finance minister before stepping down in 2017 to stand trial in Melbourne on child sexual abuse charges, for which he was jailed for more than 400 days before his conviction was overturned by the High Court in 2020.
Cardinal Re said his later years were marked by “an unjust and painful condemnation”.
“He was an experience of great suffering endured with confidence in God’s judgment,” he said.
Cardinal Re said Cardinal Pell was a “man of God and man of the Church characterised by a deep faith and great steadfastness of doctrine, which he always defended without hesitation and with courage, concerned only with being faithful to Christ.”
Soon after Cardinal Pell’s death, it was revealed that the cardinal was the author of a memo that had been circulating in the Vatican for months. The memo lamented that the current papacy was a “disaster” and a “catastrophe.”
Cardinal Pell’s funeral in Rome came nine days after he attended former pope Benedict’s farewell when, the Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher said, he was “in sparkling form – witty and wise”.
After the mass, Australian officials were due to collect his coffin to return his remains to Australia.
He will be buried in the crypt at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, where he served as archbishop, this week.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Victoria’s Daniel Andrews have ruled out holding state services for the former archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney.
A representative for the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney said masses would be dedicated to Cardinal Pell on Sunday.