A Melbourne school has praised Vatican leader Cardinal George Pell, who recently died from heart complications in Rome, for his administrative strength.
Pell, formerly the archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney and Australia’s most senior Catholic, passed away on Jan. 10 following hip replacement surgery aged 81.
He gained notoriety in Australia after standing trial and being found guilty in 2017-18 for the alleged sexual abuse of two teenage choirboys in 1996. The country’s peak judicial body later quashed this verdict.
Principal Deb Frizza of the private boys’ school, St Bede’s College, in Mentone, wrote in a school newsletter that “Pell’s strengths in administration were widely recognised, both in Australia and around the world.”
“We have recently learned of the passing of two very significant individuals in the Catholic Church of recent years–retired Pope Benedict XVI and Australian Cardinal, George Pell,” Ms Frizza said, the Daily Telegraph reported.
“This priest from Ballarat led the local Church in Melbourne from 1996 to 2001, before being transferred to Sydney and then to Rome as a member of an advisory group to Pope Francis and Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.
“We pray for the repose of both of their souls.”
False Allegations Of Sexual Harassment
Pell will lie in state at the cathedral from 9.30 a.m. on Feb. 1.
But NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Victoria’s Daniel Andrews have ruled out holding state services for the former archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney.
The cardinal was Vatican’s top finance minister before leaving the position in 2017 when he was accused and convicted of molesting two teenage choirboys at St. Patrick’s Cathedral during his time as Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.
Pell spent 13 months behind bars before later the conviction was quashed by all seven justices of the High Court of Australia, who found the Victorian Supreme Court and Court of Appeal did not entertain enough “doubt” on the veracity of 23 witness testimonies.
The cardinal maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal.
Australian media outlets were later charged and pleaded guilty to breaching a suppression order on reporting on the trial—a normal practice to maintain the integrity and fairness of the trial.
Originally a plea deal was offered in which the prosecutor would drop a total of 58 charges against the journalists, including the charge of sub judice contempt, which carries a potential jail sentence. However, this resulted in the media companies themselves pleading guilty to 21 charges and can expect fines of up to $500,000 apiece.
Over a million dollars in fines were also handed out against several publications, including the Herald Sun, The Australian Financial Review, Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph, The Advertiser in Adelaide, the Geelong Advertiser, and The Courier Mail in Brisbane.
Other media companies include Sydney radio station 2GB, Channel Nine (which featured coverage in its Today show), Mamamia, and Business Insider.
Politicians Paid Tribute To Pell
Following the cardinal’s death, former Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott described Pell as a “saint for our times.”
“The Cardinal was a committed defender of Catholic orthodoxy and a staunch advocate for the virtues of Western Civilisation,” he wrote on Twitter.
“In fact, he was a very pastoral priest who well understood the human stain and was more than capable of empathising with sinners while still counselling against sin.
“His incarceration on charges that the High Court ultimately scathingly dismissed was a modern form of crucifixion; reputationally at least a kind of living death.”
While Abbott’s predecessor, Prime Minister John Howard, said Pell displayed “consistent courage” in expressing Christian views in the public space.
“Believers and non-believers alike were left in no doubt where George Pell stood on issues,” he said in a statement.
“His deep and compassionate faith sustained him during more than 400 days in prison for alleged crimes which many, me included, believed should never have been the subject of charges.
“I liked and respected the late Cardinal a lot. His passing is a great loss to the intellectual and spiritual life of our country.”
Daniel Y. Teng and AAP contributed to this article.