Pope Francis presides at funeral for controversial Cardinal George Pell

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Jan. 14 (UPI) — Controversial Australian Cardinal George Pell was given a final blessing by Pope Francis during his funeral at the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica Saturday.

Pell, who served as the Vatican’s finance minister for three years, died on Jan. 10 after undergoing a hip surgery in Rome. Prior to taking a position at the Vatican, Pell was the Archbishop of Melbourne and then the Archbishop of Sydney.

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Australia’s royal commission into child sexual abuse found that Pell was aware of sexual abuse in the church during the 1970s.

“We are also satisfied that by 1973, Cardinal Pell was not only conscious of child sexual abuse by clergy, but he also considered measures of avoiding situations which might provoke gossip about it,” the commission wrote in its report.

The commission also found that Pell had feigned ignorance about the actions of Gerald Ridsdale, an Australian priest currently in prison for hundreds of sex crimes against young boys.

In 2018, Pell was convicted by an Australian jury of sexually abusing two during the 1990s, when he was Archbishop of Melbourne. His conviction was overturned by Australia’s high court in 2020.

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In his homily, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Giovanni Battista Re, described Pell as “a man of God,” and seemingly dismissed the allegations against him as “an unjust and painful condemnation.”

“In June 2017, he was accused of sexual abuse in Australia, and the trial resulted in a prison sentence,” Re said, before noting that the conviction had been overturned.

“His was an experience of great suffering endured with confidence in God’s judgment,” he added.

Shortly after his death it was revealed that Pell was the author of an anonymous memo condemning Francis’ papacy as “a catastrophe,” last March.

Pell’s body will be transported to Australia for burial after the funeral.