A memorial service will be held in Sydney for the late Cardinal George Pell, but there will be no state funeral for the man who was Australia’s most senior Catholic.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Victoria’s Daniel Andrews have ruled out holding state services for the 81-year-old former archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney, who died from heart complications in Rome on Tuesday following hip surgery.
Mr Andrews said on Thursday a state funeral or memorial would be distressing for victim-survivors, but the cardinal’s legacy would be for others to judge.
The 81-year-old was the Vatican’s top finance minister before leaving in 2017 to stand trial in Melbourne on child sexual abuse charges, for which he was jailed before his convictions were quashed.
Mr Perrottet said a memorial service for Cardinal Pell would be organised by the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, offering his “thoughts and prayers” to the late cardinal’s family.
A service for Cardinal Pell will be held at the Vatican in the coming days, followed by a funeral mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney.
His body will be buried in St Mary’s crypt.
At a mass on Thursday, Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher said he met and dined with Cardinal Pell in Rome last week at the funeral for Pope Benedict XVI.
“He was in sparkling form – witty and wise,” Rev Fisher said.
“I didn’t dream it would be the last time I would see him in this life.”
Cardinal Pell was convicted in 2018 of molesting two teenage choirboys in the sacristy of Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996.
He maintained his innocence and in 2020 his convictions were overturned by the High Court after he spent more than a year in prison.
In Ballarat, where Cardinal Pell was born, he attended local Catholic schools before going to the seminary and, after a period at the Vatican, returned as a priest in the Diocese of Ballarat in the 1970s.
The cardinal became the Melbourne archbishop in 1996 and five years later took up the same role in Sydney before in 2003 becoming a cardinal in the Vatican.
Pope Francis called Cardinal Pell a “faithful servant who, without vacillating, followed his Lord with perseverance even in the hour of trial”.