Death at 81 of Cardinal George Pell, accused of sexual violence in Australia

Cardinal George Pell, here in May 2021, had been sentenced in 2019 to six years in prison for the sexual assault in the 1990s of two altar boys in the sacristy of St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne.

AP - Gregorio Borgia

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Cardinal George Pell, retired archbishop of Sydney and former head of the Vatican's secretariat for the economy, accused of sexual violence in Australia and then cleared, died in Rome at the age of 81.


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According to the official Vatican News news site, George Pell "

died of complications following hip surgery

" in a Rome hospital, just days after attending the funeral of Pope

Benedict XVI


Coming from a modest background in the Australian region, George Pell rose through the ranks and became an important figure in the Vatican.

But his meteoric rise was marred by criminal convictions for sexually assaulting altar boys in Melbourne in the 1990s, convictions later overturned. 

► To read also: 

Pedophilia: six years in prison for former Australian cardinal George Pell

His death, received differently, illustrates well the turmoil in which the Catholic Church has found itself for several years in the face of the denunciation of sexual crimes committed within it.

His supporters praise this modern-day "saint", like former Australian Conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott who believes that the cardinal's name has been tainted by a "

monstrous allegation

" and that his incarceration "

was a modern form of crucifixion


But for victims of Church sexual abuse, her death brought back painful memories.

For Donald McLeish, of the SNAP association for the defense of victims of pedophile religious, the cardinal embodied the negligence of the Church with regard to victims of sexual violence.


His name is known to all survivors around the world 

," he told AFP.


Not just for his inaction, but for his coldness towards the victims and survivors


A year in prison

In 2019, when he was then considered the right arm of Pope Francis and the third most powerful personality of the Church, he was sentenced to six years in prison for the sexual assault of two altar boys, in the 1990s, in the sacristy of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne.

Confirmed on appeal, his conviction was then quashed by the Australian High Court.

The cardinal therefore only spent a year in prison.

Received by Pope Francis in Rome, following this story, he affirms that the judgment makes it possible to repair "

a serious injustice


► To read also 


Pedophilia: the Vatican welcomes the acquittal of Australian Cardinal George Pell

Although cleared by the courts, a separate investigation points to his disregard for claims of sexual abuse during his rise within the Australian Catholic Church.

In 1973, Cardinal Pell was not only aware of the sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy, but he also considered measures to avoid situations that could provoke discussions on this subject

,” concluded a royal commission. in 2020.


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