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Tony Abbott: Cardinal Pell’s final years ‘a modern crucifixion’

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Cardinal George Pell greets Tony Abbott and Ambassador to the Holy See Chiara Porro following Mass at Domus Australia in Rome in 2020. PHOTO: Supplied

Members of Parliament have paid their respects on the passing of Cardinal George Pell, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese offering his condolences to Australian Catholics and former PM Tony Abbott describing His Eminence’s final years as “a modern crucifixion”.

“For many people, particularly of the Catholic faith, this will be a difficult day and I express my condolences to all those who are mourning today,” the Prime Minister said.

Mr Albanese said at a press conference that he had spoken with Archbishop Anthony Fisher this morning, and that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was making arrangements to assist with the return of Cardinal Pell’s remains to Australia.

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The Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton, also paid tribute to His Eminence, describing him as “a man of immense erudition and faith”.

“A fierce defender of the Catholic faith and Christian ideals, Dr Pell made friends – and enemies – along the way,” Mr Dutton said.

“On his passing, the fact he spent a year in prison for a conviction that the High Court of Australia unanimously quashed should provide some cause for reflection for the Victorian Labor Government and its institutions that led this modern-day political persecution.

“Pell never lost faith in his God, his country, and in justice – despite the tests and trials he endured in life.”

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a personal friend of Cardinal Pell, said “Australia has lost a great son and the Church has lost a great leader” and called Cardinal Pell “a saint for our times”.

“The Cardinal was a committed defender of Catholic orthodoxy and a staunch advocate for the virtues of Western Civilisation.

“As an ecclesiastical and cultural conservative, he attracted praise and blame from all the expected quarters.”

Mr Abbott said Cardinal Pell’s trial, imprisonment and exoneration from a conviction of child sexual abuse was “a modern form of crucifixion; reputationally at least a kind of living death”.

“His prison journals should become a classic: a fine man wrestling with a cruel fate and trying to make sense of the unfairness of suffering.”

Shadow Attorney-General Julian Leeser described Cardinal Pell as “a reformer”.

“Reformers are controversial and upend established orders. Whether at home or abroad, George Pell was sent in to clean up the messes of others,” Mr Leeser said.

“George Pell did not seek to be popular, rather he sought to advance his church and to be faithful to its mission as he saw it.”

Mr Leeser paid tribute to Cardinal Pell’s role in establishing the Australian Catholic University, and his work fostering Jewish-Catholic relations, but also said the “opprobrium that has been heaped on George Pell was almost without precedent in Australian history”.

“I suspect, in part, this fury reflected a reckoning with the historical failures of the wider Catholic Church to deal with child sexual abuse, as well as the harsh public caricature that was the result of his positions on many issues,” Mr Leeser said.

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