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Funeral held for controversial Australian cardinal Pell

Funeral held for controversial Australian cardinal Pell

14 January 2023

Vatican City (AFP) -

Several dozen people including bishops, cardinals and archbishops turned out for the funeral of the controversial Cardinal George Pell in the Vatican on Saturday.

The ceremony in St Peter's Basilica was led by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, with Pope Francis arriving in a wheelchair for the last few minutes.

Pell, who died in Rome aged 81, was a towering figure in the Catholic Church but deeply divisive at home in Australia, where he had been accused of molesting two teenage choir boys while archbishop of Melbourne.

From humble beginnings, Pell climbed the ranks to become one of Pope Francis's most trusted advisers inside the Vatican.

He was also the highest-ranking Catholic to be imprisoned for child sexual abuse, spending 12 months in prison before his convictions were quashed on appeal.

Pell died of heart complications related to a hip surgery he underwent in a Rome hospital on Tuesday, according to the Vatican's official news website.

His body will be returned to Australia and buried in the crypt of St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, church officials said.

But an Australian state leader has ruled out a taxpayer-funded memorial for Cardinal Pell, saying it would be 'deeply distressing' for sexual abuse survivors.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Thursday said Pell's legacy had been permanently tainted.

'We will never ever forget victim-survivors of institutional child sexual abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church,' he told reporters.

State funerals are reserved for high-profile figures who have made significant contributions to Australian public life.