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The schola chants after Cdl. Pell's coffin has been brought to the altar in St. Peter'sMichael Haynes/LifeSiteNews

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal George Pell’s funeral took place today in St. Peter’s Basilica and was attended by numerous members of his fellow clergy, along with family, friends and Catholics from across the world. 

Shortly after 11 a.m. local time, Pell’s coffin was carried through the Memento mori door into the Vatican and up to the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica. His remains had been lying in the church of San Stefano degli Abisini, where a number of Catholics came to pray and pay their respects.

The funeral commenced at 11:30 a.m.

Cdl. Pell’s funeral at St. Peter’s Basilica.
Cdl. Pell’s coffin in St. Peter’s Basilica

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the dean of the College of Cardinals, celebrated the Mass, while Pope Francis presided over the final blessing of the coffin after Mass, the Ultima Commendatio and Valedictio.

Unlike for Pope Benedict’s funeral last week, Francis was not present for the Mass. He received different groups in private audience at 11 a.m. and then 11:30 a.m., and thus did not appear for the Mass. Francis only arrived in his now-customary wheelchair at 12:25, in time for the final blessing rites. 

Pope Francis at Cdl. Pell’s funeral

Pell died suddenly on Tuesday after having undergone a scheduled hip replacement surgery. While the procedure itself was a success, Pell reportedly died from a cardiac arrest after the operation. 

READ: Cdl. George Pell dies aged 81 in Rome

News of his death shocked the Catholic world, including many of his fellow cardinals. “I am shocked because I saw him often as a fellow resident in the same house and we talked just a few days ago,” Cardinal Gerhard Müller said in a statement to LifeSiteNews. “He was a great witness to the truth of the gospel and worked very well and diligently in the Lord’s vineyard. But he also suffered much for the Church of Christ and has been slandered and innocently thrown into prison because of his fidelity to the crucified and risen Jesus.”

In comments provided to LifeSite’s Maike Hickson, Cardinal Walter Brandmüller stated that he “appreciated” Pell “very much,” and that his death is a “heavy loss.” Brandmüller added that he “admired his attitude as someone who was falsely accused.”

Cardinal Raymond Burke also wrote how “the Church has lost the earthly company of a wise, loving, joyful, and courageous shepherd.” Burke noted that he had visited with Pell only the day before his unexpected death. Cdls. Burke, Müller, and Brandmüller were among the number of cardinals gathered for Pell’s funeral Mass today, as also was Pope Benedict XVI’s former secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein.

Abp. Gänswein at Cdl. Pell’s funeral, January 14, 2023.
Cdl. Pell’s funeral at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Pell had indeed been active right up until the day of his death. Only days prior, he had joined his fellow cardinals at the funeral for Benedict. Then, two days later, he preached a retreat on the east coast of Italy, at San Giovannno Rotondo.

Referring to Pell’s unjust conviction of sexual abuse – for which he spent over 400 days in jail before Australia’s High Court overturned the ruling – Cardinal Re stated: “It was an experience of great suffering endured with confidence in God’s judgment.”

Pell’s jail term was an “an unjust and painful sentence,” said Re.

“In order to make known how much faith and prayer help in the difficult moments of life and also to be of support to those who must unjustly suffer, he published the diary of his long days in prison,” commented Re during his sermon. 

Echoing Burke’s comments, Re continued by calling Pell a “man of God and man of the Church, characterized by a deep faith and great steadfastness of doctrine, which he always defended unhesitatingly and courageously, concerned only with being faithful to Christ.”

“As he noted many times, the weakening of faith in the Western world and the moral crisis of the family grieved him,” stated Re.

St. Peter’s Basilica.

Following today’s funeral, Pell’s remains will be transported back to his native Australia, where he will be buried in Sydney’s St. Mary’s Cathedral.

READ: Cdl. Pell slams German Synodal Path as ‘suicidal,’ warns of ‘serious heresies’

Pell had not been reticent in voicing his condemnation of a number of issues present in the Church today, such as Germany’s Synodal Way and the wider Synod on Synodality. Yet in the hours following his death, it was revealed that his opposition had been even more significant. 

On Wednesday, the U.K.’s Spectator magazine published a stern criticism of the Synod on Synodality, written by Pell shortly before he died. The Australian prelate called the process a “toxic nightmare,” and said the most recent Synodal document contained “neo-Marxist jargon about exclusion, alienation, identity, marginalization, the voiceless, LGBTQ, […]” which led to “the displacement of Christian notions of forgiveness, sin, sacrifice, healing, [and] redemption.”

READ: Cdl. Pell called Synod on Synodality a ‘toxic nightmare’ just before he died

Then, veteran Vatican journalist Sandro Magister reported that it was actually Pell who was the author of the pseudonymous memo sent out to cardinals last year, calling Francis’ pontificate a “catastrophe,” and outlining six chief dangers of Francis’ papacy. 

READ: Cdl. Pell wrote memo sent to cardinals on ‘catastrophe’ of Pope Francis: Vatican reporter

Magister told LifeSiteNews that he had “personally received the memo signed Demos (original in English) from Pell, with permission to publish it, provided the name of the real author is kept confidential.”

According to Dr. Robert Moynihan, the founder and editor-in-chief of Inside the Vatican magazine, Pell was “a man of faith in a world that wishes to hide from the faith, or overthrow the faith, or mock the faith, because the faith reveals the evil of their deeds. He was a giant of a man, and he was a man who suffered much for being a faithful man of the Church.”