Cardinal Gerhard Müller (center) and Father Joseph Hamilton (at left), personal secretary to the late Cardinal George Pell, were among the priests celebrating the Jan. 10, 2024, Mass held on the first anniversary of the cardinal’s death. / Credit: Elizabeth Alva

Rome Newsroom, Jan 10, 2024 / 16:45 pm (CNA).

A requiem Mass was held in Rome on Tuesday evening to mark the first anniversary of the death of Cardinal George Pell and to celebrate the cardinal’s illustrious ecclesiastical career.

The chapel of the Domus Australia was filled to capacity for the Mass, which was celebrated by Cardinal Gerhard Müller. In attendance were numerous cardinals and bishops, an array of priests from Rome, ambassadors to the Holy See, and faithful from Rome and abroad who came to pray for the beloved cardinal. 

The chapel of the Domus Australia was filled to capacity for the Jan. 10, 2024, Mass, which was celebrated by Cardinal Gerhard Müller. Credit: Elizabeth Alva

Father Joseph Hamilton, rector of the Domus Australia and Pell’s former secretary, noted in an exclusive interview with EWTN: “I think His Eminence was very loved here in the city of Rome. His witness was very much appreciated and his loss was very unexpected.” 

“I think that a beautiful Mass to commemorate his life, to pray for the repose of his soul, and to ask for his intercession here in the chapel, which he renovated and which he loved, I’m hoping will bring consolation and some degree of closure for those who have been grieving for the cardinal over the last year,” Hamilton added in his interview. 

Pell died at the age of 81 on Jan. 10, 2023, after suffering a cardiac arrest following a scheduled hip replacement days prior at Rome’s Salvator Mundi hospital. He previously served as archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne before Pope Francis appointed him to head the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy in 2014, making him the most senior Australian prelate. 

Cardinal Raymond Burke was among those at the Mass on the first anniversary of Cardinal George Pell’s death Jan. 10, 2024. Credit: Elizabeth Alva

During his homily, Müller reflected on the long illustrious life of the departed cardinal, noting that Pell and Pope Benedict — who passed away less than two weeks before the cardinal — were “role models of the true faith.”

Müller reflected on his early life, noting that the cardinal showed great “athletic abilities” and “high intellectual talent,” which would have brought him “a brilliant career in the world.” But, Müller continued, Pell eschewed worldly goals and opted to “follow Christ’s call to the priestly service.”

Cardinal Gerhard Müller at the requiem Mass on Jan. 10, 2024, marking the first anniversary of Cardinal George Pell’s death. Credit: Elizabeth Alva

Pell was renowned for his quick wit and towering stature. Müller, reflecting on his personal relationship with the late cardinal, highlighted Pell’s commitment to “marriage and family in the spirit of Christ, teachings against relativization by secularist-minded participants in the Synod of this topic.” 

Müller also touched upon the darkest chapter of Pell’s life, which stands as “a great testimony of Christian patience.” 

Cardinal George Pell gives an interview to EWTN News in Rome, Italy, on Dec. 9, 2020. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Pell was convicted on Dec. 11, 2018, on five charges of sexual abuse while he served as archbishop of Melbourne in the late 1990s. After serving 404 days in solitary confinement, Australia’s high court unanimously overturned the convictions, based on reasonable doubt of the appellate proceedings, in April 2020. 

“He was relentlessly pursued by a bloodthirsty mob and made himself a victim of justice by anti-Catholic agitators in the media and the police apparatus,” Müller remarked regarding the vilification of the late cardinal in mainstream media. 

Auxiliary Bishop Richard Umbers of the Archdiocese of Sydney spoke with EWTN after the Mass, noting that the evening was an opportunity to mark “the anniversary of a man who was a lion in the Church. I think it’s giving due recognition to someone who’s been very important in the life of Australia, if not in fact the whole world.”

While recognizing that Pell was a “lightning rod for the Church,” Umbers explained that he was a man “of great strength and tremendous courage.” 

Pell’s legacy is not just limited to his theological acumen or reforms of the Vatican’s handling of financial affairs, but it is most tangibly seen in the revitalization of the Church in Sydney. 

“I think the impact of Cardinal Pell is very visible in Sydney,” Umbers said. “He was a big man with great vision, and the last 20 years in the Archdiocese of Sydney have seen real growth and leadership amongst a number of young Catholics.” 

“You find an environment there which is quite extraordinary. A lot of life, especially in the area of university chaplaincy. He [Pell] invested heavily in that area and took great interest in the next generation of leaders,” Umbers added. 

According to Father Hamilton, one of the hallmarks of Pell’s legacy will be his example of strength and unity for the Church as it is going through a period marked by division and is mired in crises. 

“We are one Catholic Church, we have one faith, we have one pope, we’re one people. If we stand together, we’re strong. If we’re divided, we’re weak, and I think that his [Pell’s] witness to us and his legacy to the Church is that it is one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church that he was proud to serve and that he was proud, in a very humble way, to be a confessor of. I think that that leaves us an astonishing and shining example,” he said.

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