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George Pell

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His Eminence 
George Pell
Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney
See Sydney
Enthroned 26 March 2001
Reign ended Incumbent
Predecessor Edward Clancy
Created Cardinal 21 October 2003
Other Archbishop of Melbourne
Personal details
Born 8 June 1941 (1941-06-08) (age 75)
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
Nationality Australian
Denomination Roman Catholic Church

George Pell AC (born 8 June 1941) is a Roman Catholic cardinal and the current Archbishop of Sydney in the Roman Catholic Church. He was apponted as a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2003. He is one of the most prominent Christian leaders in Australia.


Pell was born in Ballarat in Victoria. After attending St Patrick's College in Ballarat he studied at Corpus Christi Seminary, at that time based in Werribee. He was ordained a priest in 1966 by Cardinal Gregoire-Pierre Agagianian, the Armenian Catholic Patriarch of Cilicia.

Pell received a licentiate in theology from Pontifical Urbaniana University in 1967, a doctorate of philosophy in church history from the University of Oxford in 1971 and a master's degree in education from Monash University in 1982. After graduation from Oxford, he worked as an assistant priest in parishes in Victoria. He was Visiting Scholar at Campion Hall in 1979 and at St Edmund's College in 1983.

After serving as Principal of Aquinas College in Ballarat (which later became a campus of the Australian Catholic University) and Rector of his alma mater of Corpus Christi College, Pell was appointed an auxiliary bishop of Melbourne and Titular Bishop of Scala on 30 March 1987. He received his episcopal consecration on 21 May 1987 from Archbishop Frank Little, with Bishops Ronald Mulkearns and Joseph O'Connell serving as co-consecrators. Pell was named seventh Archbishop of Melbourne on 16 July 1996, receiving the pallium from Pope John Paul II on 29 June 1997. He was later appointed eighth Archbishop of Sydney on 26 March 2001 and again received the pallium from John Paul on 29 June 2001.

Pell has been a member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace from 1990 to 1995 and again since 2002. From 1990 to 2000 he was a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In April 2002, John Paul II named him President of the Vox Clara commission to advise the Congregation for Divine Worship on English translations of liturgical texts. In December 2002 he was appointed to the Presidential Committee of the Pontifical Council for the Family, having previously served as a consultor to the council.

Pell has written widely in religious and secular magazines, learned journals and newspapers in Australia and overseas and regularly speaks on television and radio. In September 1996 Oxford University Press published his Issues of Faith and Morals, written for senior secondary classes and parish groups. His other publications include The Sisters of St Joseph in Swan Hill 1922-72 (1972), Catholicism in Australia (1988), Rerum Novarum - One Hundred Years Later (1992), Catholicism and the Architecture of Freedom (1999) and Be Not Afraid, a collection of homilies and reflections published in 2004. A biography of Pell was published by Queensland journalist Tess Livingstone in 2002.

Church role

Since Pell's appointment as Archbishop of Melbourne - and more particularly since his translation to Sydney - he has taken a high public profile on a wide range of issues, while retaining a strict adherence to Catholic orthodoxy. [1] As his rapid promotion might indicate, he appeared to have the full confidence of John Paul II and his closest advisers such as the current Pope Benedict XVI (as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger).

Pell has worked with dignitaries of other churches in his efforts to strengthen the faith of Christians and their contribution to Australian life. This was a difficult task in Sydney, which had a long tradition of sectarian hostility. The Sydney diocese of the Anglican Church of Australia is predominantly Evangelical and historically anti-Roman Catholic, but Pell worked co-operatively with his Anglican counterpart, Dr Peter Jensen, on political issues while avoiding theological controversies. This was referred to in Sydney as "the ecumenism of the right".

In defending the importance of religious belief in building a just society Pell has also worked with the representatives of non-Christian faiths, arguing in 2001 that "the most significant religious change in Australia over the past 50 years is the increase of people without religion, now about one fifth of the population. All monotheists, Christians and Jews, Muslims and Sikhs, must labour to reverse this. We must not allow the situation to deteriorate as it had in Elijah's time, 850 years before Christ, where monotheism was nearly swamped by the aggressive paganism of the followers of Baal."

Styles of
George Pell
CardinalCoA PioM
Reference style His Most Reverend Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Sydney

On 28 September 2003, John Paul II announced that he would nominate [2] Pell and 28 others to the College of Cardinals. In the consistory of the following 21 October he was created Cardinal Priest of S. Maria Domenica Mazzarello. For the first time ever, from Pell's elevation to the cardinalate in 2003 until Cardinal Edward Clancy's 80th birthday on 13 December 2003, there were three Australian cardinal electors (had a papal election become necessary), including Cardinals Clancy and Edward Idris Cassidy.

Pell was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI. While there was a little speculation in the Australian media that he had an outside chance of becoming Pope himself, international commentary on the papal succession (aside from one Italian source) did not mention Pell as a contender. However, Pell was mentioned as a possible successor to Benedict XVI as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.[3] This position was given to William Levada, former Archbishop of San Francisco. Cardinal Pell remains eligible to participate in any future papal conclaves that begin before his 80th birthday on 8 June 2021.

In 2006 Pell made a successful bid for Sydney to host the 2008 World Youth Day. World Youth Day is one of the largest regular international gatherings of young people in the world, often attracting crowds in the millions. The 2008 event brought Pope Benedict XVI on his first papal visit to Australia. "We take it for granted that people will always give to the poor and be concerned about social justice", Pell said soon after winning the bid, in remarks which spelled out his pastoral priorities. "But this doesn't just happen by itself. Many great civilisations have shown no regard for these values at all and have even considered them weaknesses...Every society requires a goodly percentage of active believers to ensure that the values of a fair go and respect for others are promoted, and passed on the next generation. World Youth Day will make a powerful contribution to this vital work".

Pell has said that he would favour mandatory ad orientem celebration of Mass, but recognised that there is no consensus in support of that idea. [4]

Doctrinal stances and responses to criticisms

Pell has adopted a conservative position on social issues. Pell, however, has often been wary of what he calls the "callousness" of unrestrained capitalism, and as head of Australian Catholic Relief (now Caritas Australia) put an end to corrupt siphoning of donations to political causes instead of humanitarian aid.

On sexuality

Pell has received much attention for his attitudes to sexuality issues, particularly homosexuality. "Christian teaching on sexuality is only one part of the Ten Commandments, of the virtues and vices, but it is essential for human wellbeing and especially for the proper flourishing of marriages and families, for the continuity of the human race."[5]

Pell said upon becoming Archbishop of Sydney. "Any genuine religion has two important moral tasks; firstly, to present norms and ideals, goals for our striving; and secondly, to offer aids for our weakness, forgiveness and healing for every wrong doer and sinner who repents and seeks forgiveness."[5]

As Archbishop of Melbourne, Pell has been involved with the sexual abuse scandal in Melbourne archdiocese, an important chapter in a series of Catholic sex abuse cases in regional jurisdictions.


In 2009, Pell supported Pope Benedict XVI's controversial claim that condoms worsen the spread of HIV and AIDS.

On the ordination of women and priestly celibacy

Pell supported Pope John Paul II's view that the ordination of women is impossible according to the church's divine constitution and has also expressed his opinion that abandoning the tradition of clerical celibacy would be a "serious blunder".[6]

On other religions

In 2004, speaking to the Acton Institute on the problems of "secular democracy", Pell drew a parallel between Islam and Communism: "Islam may provide in the 21st century, the attraction that communism provided in the 20th, both for those that are alienated and embittered on the one hand and for those who seek order or justice on the other."[7]

On divorce

In 2001 on ABC radio's "The World Today", Pell stated that he wants a return to the divorce system based on the fault of one spouse. Further reaction of outrage was drawn when he said couples with children who do win a divorce, cause such social havoc that they should have to pay a special divorce tax. Critics of Pell felt this demonstrated how out of touch he is, arguing that couples whose marriage was clearly finished would then be punished further, beyond the emotional and financial stress of divorce already, with a further punishment of his proposed taxation slug.[8]

On environmental concerns

Pell aroused criticism from Senator Christine Milne of the Greens political party with the following comment in his 2006 Legatus Summit speech:

Some of the hysteric and extreme claims about global warming are also a symptom of pagan emptiness, of Western fear when confronted by the immense and basically uncontrollable forces of nature. Belief in a benign God who is master of the universe has a steadying psychological effect, although it is no guarantee of Utopia, no guarantee that the continuing climate and geographic changes will be benign. In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.[9]

Responding to the Anglican environmentalist Bishop George Browning, who told the Australian Anglican Church's general synod that the cardinal was out of touch with the Catholic Church as well as with the general community,[10] Pell stated:

"Radical environmentalists are more than up to the task of moralising their own agenda and imposing it on people through fear. They don't need church leaders to help them with this, although it is a very effective way of further muting Christian witness. Church leaders in particular should be allergic to nonsense."[11] He added, I am certainly sceptical about extravagant claims of impending man-made climatic catastrophes. Uncertainties on climate change abound ... my task as a Christian leader is to engage with reality, to contribute to debate on important issues, to open people's minds, and to point out when the emperor is wearing few or no clothes.[10]

Stem cell debate controversy

In remarks made at a media conference in June 2007 on a conscience vote overturning the state ban on therapeutic cloning, Pell said that "Catholic politicians who vote for this legislation must realise that their voting has consequences for their place in the life of the Church". Some members of parliament condemned Pell's comments, calling them hypocritical and drawing comparisons with comments made earlier in the year by Sheik Hilali.[12][13] Pell's remarks were referred to the Privileges Committee of the state upper house for allegedly being in contempt of parliament. In September the Committee tabled a report clearing him of this charge and recommending that no further action be taken.

Eulogy reforms

In February 2007 Cardinal Pell instituted new guidelines when it comes for family members to speak at funerals. Cardinal Pell said that "On not a few occasions, inappropriate remarks glossing over the deceased's proclivities (drinking prowess, romantic conquests etc) or about the Church (attacking its moral teachings) have been made at funeral Masses" [3]. Pell's guidelines make it clear that the eulogy must never replace the officiating priest's homily, which should focus on God's compassion and the mystery of the resurrection of Jesus.

Other roles

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney takes the role of Visitor of St John's College, a residential college within the University of Sydney. This is a largely ceremonial role but he can also be called upon to give guidance and resolve internal disputes. Under the direction of the Archbishop as Visitor, the college associates itself with the interests of the church and its mission, particularly by the fostering of appropriate academic directions in education, charity, social justice, ethics and the environment. Cardinal Pell has recently accepted the invitation to be patron of the Oxford University Newman Society and to deliver their inaugural St Thomas More Lecture planned to be held on 6 March 2009.

See also


  1. In regard to this there has been some dispute over the issue of Catholics and "primacy of conscience" cf.[1] or [2]
  2. Catholic encyclopedia:Nomination
  3. "Faith's enforcer offers hand of unity". 2005-04-21. 
  4. Cardinal Pell hopes for mandatory ad orientem worship
  5. 5.0 5.1 Archbishop Pell installed in Sydney
  6. "Cardinal Pell: Ending Celibacy Rule Would Be a Blunder". Retrieved 2006-05-05. 
  7. George Pell (2004-10-12). "Is there only secular democracy? Imagining other possibilities for the third millennium". Retrieved 2006-05-08. 
  8. The World Today, ABC Radio (2001-08-21). "Catholic Archbishop of Sydney calls for divorce tax". Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  9. "Islam and Western Democracies". 2006-02-04. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Heat on Pell for cool air on climate change" Jill Rowbotham, The Australian October 25, 2007. Retrieved on 2009-04-07
  11. "Pell out of touch on climate - bishop". 2007-10-25. 
  12. . Cardinal Pell sounding like Sheik Hilali, MP says, written by staff at, 6 June. 2007
  13. MPs turn attack back on Cardinal Pell, written by AAP, published on Sydney Morning Herald Online Edition 6 June 2007

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Frank Little
7th Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne
Succeeded by
Denis Hart
Preceded by
Edward Clancy
8th Catholic Archbishop of Sydney
Succeeded by
la:Georgius Pellno:George Pellpt:George Pell

ru:Пелл, Джордж fi:George Pell

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