Australian Cardinal George Pell dies following hip surgery

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Jan. 10 (UPI) — Cardinal George Pell, whose convictions for sexually abusing a child were overturned, died Tuesday of health complications following routine hip surgery.

The Australian clergyman was in Rome, where he underwent hip replacement surgery. The National Catholic Register reported the surgery was successful but Pell was suspected of having gone into cardiac arrest afterward. He was 81.

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Pell was appointed by Pope Francis to first prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in 2014. In 2017, he faced multiple charges of child sex abuse stemming from his time as archbishop of Melbourne. He returned to Australia, where he was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison.

In 2020, the High Court of Australia overturned the convictions.

Pell said he was treated well in prison, and was told by the church that he may return in the future.

“When I was in jail, I asked my secretary to pack up my belongings here, especially my books and send them home,” he told News.com.au, an Australian news network. “The word came down from on high to leave the apartment here for me when I might return.”

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The cardinal maintained his innocence throughout his legal battle. Australia’s high court found that there was not significant evidence to prove Pell’s guilt.

Pell became a cardinal under Pope John Paul II in 2003. He took part in electing both Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 and Pope Francis in 2013.

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Cardinal George Pell

Australian Cardinal George Pell speaks to members of the media at the Vatican in 2017. Pell, whose convictions for sexually abusing a child were eventually overturned, died January 10 at age 81. He suffered complications after a routine hip surgery. Photo by Massimo Percossi/EPA