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Pope Francis: Pell a ‘great man’ who saw the need for financial reform

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Pope Francis signs a cricket bat presented by Cardinal George Pell at the Vatican in 2015. Photo: L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters.

Pope Francis has praised the late Australian Cardinal George Pell as a faithful servant of God and of the Catholic Church, who steadfastly followed the Lord even “in the hour of trial” when he was jailed for sexual abuse before his conviction was overturned by Australia’s highest court.

In an interview with Italy’s Mediaset broadcast 18 December, Pope Francis was asked what part of his job he would have preferred not having had to deal with, and he responded, the Vatican’s financial chaos and scandals.

The need for a thorough clean up “was clearly seen by Cardinal Pell, who is the one who started” making progress, the pope said, but then he was required to return to Australia “because of this calumny” of being accused of sexual abuse.

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“He was innocent,” Pope Francis said in the December interview. “He is a great man, and we owe him so much.”

The pope made the same points in a telegram addressed 11 Jan to Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals.

Offering his condolences also to Cardinal Pell’s brother and family members, Pope Francis said the Australian prelate would be remembered for “his consistent and committed witness, his dedication to the Gospel and the church, and particularly his diligent cooperation with the Holy See in its recent economic reform, for which he laid the foundations with determination and wisdom.”

He prayed that the cardinal, “who without wavering followed his Lord with perseverance even in the hour of trial,” would be “received into the joy of heaven and receive the reward of eternal peace.”

Soon after his election, Pope Francis named Cardinal Pell to his international Council of Cardinals to advise him on the reform of the Roman Curia and, in 2014, Pope Francis named him prefect of the new Council for the Economy.

Cardinal Pell’s death leaves the College of Cardinals with 223 members, 125 of whom are under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave.

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