Cardinal George Pell, the former Catholic archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney, died on Tuesday in Vatican City aged 81. Father Joseph Hamilton confirmed Pell’s death on Tuesday evening local time after being admitted to a Rome hospital for hip replacement surgery. While the operation was successful, Pell subsequently suffered a cardiac arrest, said Hamilton.

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Who was Cardinal George Pell?

George Pell was an Australian Cardinal of the Catholic Church. He served as archbishop of Sydney from 2001 to 2014, before being named prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy from 2014 to 2018. In 2018, Pell was convicted of historical child sexual assault, but his conviction was overturned two years later.

Pell was born on June 8, 1941, in Ballarat, Victoria to George Arthur and Margaret Lillian Pell. He attended Loreto Convent and St Patrick’s College in Ballarat. He played Australian rules football as a ruckman on the First XVIII from 1956 to 1959.

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In 1959, he signed a contract to play professionally for the Richmond Football Club, but soon he decided to study for the priesthood instead. Pell attended a regional seminary, Corpus Christi College, Werribee, before continuing his studies at Propaganda Fide College, Rome.

He was ordained to the diaconate on August 15, 1966. In 1971, he earned a Ph.D. in church history from the University of Oxford and a master’s degree in education from Monash University, Melbourne in 1982.

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Pell rose through the ranks of the Roman Catholic Church to become Vatican treasurer, considered to be the third most senior rank within the church. He served in that position from 2014 to 2019 in charge of Pope Francis’ financial reforms, which largely stalled when he was called back to Australia to face charges of sexual abuse.

He was convicted of those charges in 2018 and served 13 months in jail before Australia’s High Court acquitted him in April 2020.