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Cardinal Pell’s friends and colleagues recall his kindness and devotion

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Cardinal George Pell speaking at the Campion College capital appeal dinner at NSW Parliament House in August 2022. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Many of Cardinal George Pell’s friends and colleagues remembered him for being extraordinarily generous in his devotion to the Church and to others following his death in Rome on 10 January.

Cardinal Pell was Archbishop of Sydney from 2001-2014 and the Vatican’s Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy from 2014-2018.

Tess Livingstone, author of Cardinal Pell’s biography and The Australian‘s chief lead writer, paid tribute to the cardinal saying he has lived “a huge life”.

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“He made an enormous contribution to Australia as well as the Church throughout the world,” she told The Catholic Weekly. “He lived a huge, generous life and was utterly devoted to the Church.”

Cardinal Pell presents a certificate of Confirmation to Brianna Wallace, a member of David’s Place after her Confirmation. Photo: Sue Buckingham

Sue Buckingham, co-founder of David’s Place, said that she had witnessed the cardinal’s closeness to the city’s poor and marginalised when he was the Archbishop of Sydney. “He had a great affection for the poor. This is where the Church has got to go, to the poor and the lost and start from the bottom up rather than the other way around.

“I think the Catholic Church in general, and certainly the Church in Sydney knows that, and Cardinal Pell was doing that.”

John McCarthy QC was the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See from 2012-2016 and is Chair of the Anti-Slavery Taskforce for the Archdiocese of Sydney and the Australian Catholic Anti-Slavery Network.

He said that Cardinal Pell was a great friend to himself and his family for more than 40 years.

“He visited many times and we had many happy occasions singing around the piano and and listening to his sports stories from Ballarat and Oxford,” Mr McCarthy said.

John McCarthy QC.
John McCarthy QC, chair of the Sydney Archdiocesan Anti-Slavery Taskforce was a long-time friend of the Cardinal. PHOTO: Peter Rosengren

“He was most notable for his generous availability to Australian seminarians in Rome when he was visiting there.

“He also used these visits to remind them that he was watching their progress very carefully and tested that by speaking to them in his Australian-ised Italian.

“The Cardinal loved Rome and knew many of its secrets and special places. He would put together lists of places for visitors and everything was built around visiting St Peter’s Basilica. He always insisted that coming to Rome was about coming to St Peter’s.”

On social media, the Australian Catholic Students Association said it “mourns with deep sorrow the passing of its longtime patron and friend, George Cardinal Pell”.

“His Eminence championed ACSA as one of many works which preached the Gospel on university campuses. He became archbishop of two of Australia’s most important Sees during a time of great upheaval in the Church. The upsurge in vocations, practice (particularly among the young) and catechetical knowledge is due in no small part to his tireless and selfless work. We owe him a debt we cannot repay.”


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