Cardinal George Pell has died at age 81 in Rome after suffering complications from hip replacement surgery.
Australia’s highest ranking Catholic had reportedly been chatting to the anaesthetist in hospital following the procedure when he suddenly went into cardiac arrest, according to The Australian.
Australian Archbishop Anthony Fisher confirmed the news in a statement provided to AFP, saying, “It is with deep sadness that I can confirm His Eminence, Cardinal George Pell, passed away in Rome in the early hours of this morning.”
“This news comes as a great shock to all of us.”
“Please pray for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Pell, for comfort and consolation for his family and for all of those who loved him and are grieving him at this time.”
Pell was widely seen as the right-hand man of Pope Francis and the third most powerful figure in the church, before he was arrested in Australia for historic child sex abuse crimes within the church.
The Cardinal was imprisoned in 2019 after he was found guilty of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys in the 1990s and spent just 12 months in Barwon Prison near Melbourne before the Australian High Court quashed his convictions following an appeal.
Despite being sentenced to six years in prison with a non-parole period of three years and eight months, there were no further trials and Pell walked free after more than 400 days in prison.
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This article first appeared on Over60.