Pell’s wooden coffin lies in the state while his posthumous attack on Pope overshadows the funeral

Churchmen were overheard in cafes near the Vatican on Friday gossiping about the revelation and Pell’s final hours.

“Everyone here is talking about it,” a Vatican official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters. The official said he didn’t doubt Pell was the author, but said the reveal should have been delayed until after his funeral “out of respect for the dead.”

Australian Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Consistory celebrated by Pope Francis to appoint new cardinals to St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican in August.

Australian Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Consistory celebrated by Pope Francis to appoint new cardinals to St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican in August.Credit:Getty

Pell’s personal secretary, Father Joseph Hamilton, declined to comment on the report, and Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said he had no comment.

But a friend of Pell’s, Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio, founder and editor of Ignatius Press, a San Francisco Catholic publishing house, expressed skepticism about Pell’s authorship of the memo.

“I think it’s pure speculation as to whether or not he’s the author,” Fessio told EWTN, a global Catholic news service.

“He said enough things publicly for us to understand what his views were on those things. I take a Sed Contra [counter view] thereon. George Pell was a faithful son of the Church. He would not publicly criticize the Holy Father and I doubt he would sign anything, even anonymously, that would be public criticism.”

Matching the memo’s critical tone was a more recent letter from Pell, published posthumously by the British magazine The audience, in which he called Francis’ three-year synod on synodality a “toxic nightmare.”

Australian Cardinal George Pell leaves the Quirinale Hotel after meeting members of the Australian group of relatives and victims of priestly sex abuse in Rome in 2016.

Australian Cardinal George Pell leaves the Quirinale Hotel after meeting members of the Australian group of relatives and victims of priestly sex abuse in Rome in 2016.Credit:AP

Pell spent 404 days in a Victorian prison after being convicted on allegations of sexual abuse. He was acquitted in a unanimous decision by the full Chamber of the High Court in 2020.

He was internationally admired throughout the Church as a leader of stature and theological orthodoxy, but to many in Australia he was forever tainted by his conviction and exoneration, and allegations of pedophiles within the Victorian branch of the Church have been widely ignored to years.

Donald McLeish of the Survivors Network of these Abused by Priests (SNAP) said its members had not celebrated the death of anyone, not even the death of a man “despised and distrusted” by thousands of survivors and supporters in Australia and beyond .

“George Pell had become a target and focus for survivors and was seen as embodying the church’s attitude towards those who had been sexually abused by clergy, religious and lay employees of the Catholic Church in Australia,” he said.

“Instead of being instrumental in bringing about change as the senior Church leader supporting survivors and victims of sexual abuse, Pell has adopted, even refined, the longstanding Church practice of secrecy, seemingly protecting the institution at all costs.”

Since returning to Rome in late 2020, Pell had become an influential figure within the conservative movement in the Vatican and played a central role in promoting a traditionalist candidate to succeed Francis at his death or possible resignation.

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In accordance with tradition for deceased cardinals, the funeral Mass will be presided over by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Italian Giovanni Battista Re. It takes place at the altar of St. Peter’s Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica. A host of other cardinals and bishops are expected to concelebrate the Mass.

The cardinal’s wooden coffin is covered with a white cloth and blessed with holy water, evoking the joy of baptism. A gospel book is placed on the coffin, a sign that those who remain must carry the gospel of Christ to the world.

Australian government officials have arrived in Rome to escort Pell’s body back to Australia after the funeral. He is buried in the crypt of St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, where he served as Archbishop.

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https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/pell-s-wooden-casket-lies-in-state-as-his-posthumous-attack-on-pope-overshadows-funeral-20230114-p5cchg.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_world Pell’s wooden coffin lies in the state while his posthumous attack on Pope overshadows the funeral

Callan Tansill

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