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Cardinal George Pell


George Cardinal Pell was born in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia on June 8th 1941, and was educated in that city at Loreto Convent and St Patrick’s College. He studied for the priesthood at Corpus Christi College, Werribee, and Propaganda Fide College, Rome, and was ordained a Catholic priest for the Diocese of Ballarat by Cardinal Agagianian in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome, on December 16th 1966.

On May 21st 1987 he was ordained an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Melbourne and Titular Bishop of Scala by Archbishop Sir Frank Little in St Patrick’s Cathedral.

On July 16th 1996 Pope John Paul II announced Cardinal Pell’s appointment as seventh Metropolitan Archbishop of Melbourne. He was installed as Archbishop on August 16th 1996 in a ceremony at the Exhibition Buildings, and received the Pallium from the Pope at St Peter’s in Rome on the feast of Sts Peter and Paul, June 29th 1997.

On March 26th 2001 the Holy Father appointed Cardinal Pell the eighth Metropolitan Archbishop of Sydney. He was installed as Archbishop at St Mary’s Cathedral on May 10th 2001, and the following month received the Pallium from the Pope for the second time at St Peter’s in Rome on the feast of Sts Peter and Paul. His elevation to the Sacred College of Cardinals was announced by the John Paul II on September 28th 2003, who created him Cardinal Priest of the Church of Saint Maria Domenica Mazzarello in Rome.

Cardinal Pell holds a Licentiate in Theology from Urban University, Rome (1967), a Masters Degree in Education from Monash University, Melbourne (1982), and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Church History from the University of Oxford (1971). He is a Fellow of the Australian College of Educators, and was Visiting Scholar at Campion Hall, Oxford University, in 1979 and at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge University, in 1983. He was elected an Honorary Fellow of St Edmund’s in 2003.

Before becoming Archbishop of Melbourne Cardinal Pell worked as Assistant Priest in the parishes of Swan Hill (1971-2) and Ballarat East (1973-83), as Administrator of Bungaree parish (1984) and as Parish Priest of Mentone and Bishop for the Southern Region of Melbourne (1987-96).

Cardinal Pell served as Director of the Aquinas Campus of the Institute of Catholic Education from 1974 to 1984 and as Principal of the Institute of Catholic Education (now merged into Australian Catholic University) from 1981 to 1984. He was Episcopal Vicar for Education in the Diocese of Ballarat (1973-84), a founding member of the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria (1973-84), a member of the Academic Board of the State College of Victoria and at different times a member of the Councils of the State College of Victoria – Ballarat, the Ballarat College of Advanced Education, and Signadou College Canberra.

From 1988 to 1997 Cardinal Pell was a member of the National Catholic Education Commission. He was a member of the Bishops’ Committee for Education from 1994 to 1997 (as Secretary) and again from 2000 to 2006 (as Chairman from 2003). In 1989 Cardinal Pell was appointed Chairman of the committee charged with setting up the new Australian Catholic University, and in 1991 to 1995 he served as the University’s Foundation Pro-Chancellor. In 1999 to 2000 he assisted in the establishment of the new city campus of the University in Melbourne. Cardinal Pell has been President of the University’s board of owners since 1996.

Cardinal Pell’s commitment to Catholic tertiary education is also reflected in the role he played in establishing campuses of the University of Notre Dame Australia in Sydney, giving the east coast of Australia its first Catholic law school and first Catholic medical school. In 2003 he served as Patron of the capital appeal for Campion College, Australia’s first Catholic liberal arts college.

Christendom College, an American Catholic liberal arts institution based in Virginia, conferred the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters (honoris causa) on Cardinal Pell in 2006, and in 2008 Thomas Aquinas College in California awarded Cardinal Pell the Saint Thomas Aquinas Medallion for his service to the mission and teachings of the Church. The University of Notre Dame Australia conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws on Cardinal Pell in 2010, in recognition of the role he played in establishing campuses of the University in Sydney.

From 1985 to 1987 Cardinal Pell was Rector of Corpus Christi College, the Provincial Seminary for Victoria and Tasmania. In 1990 Pope John Paul II nominated the then Bishop Pell to the Synod of Bishops in Rome on the preparation of priests, where he served as one of the Synod spokesmen and on the Committee which prepared the final Synod Message. He was appointed Apostolic Visitor to the National Seminaries of New Zealand (1994), Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands (1995), the Pacific (1996) and Irian Jaya and Sulawesi (1998) by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in the Vatican. In 1999, as Archbishop of Melbourne, Cardinal Pell established new facilities for both Corpus Christi College in Carlton and Catholic Theological College in East Melbourne.

Cardinal Pell was Chairman of Caritas Australia, the Catholic Church’s Australian agency for overseas development and relief, from 1988 to 1997. He was a member of the Bishops’ Committee for Justice Development and Peace from 1987 to 1997 and has been a member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace from 1990 to 1995 and again from 2002. From 1990 to 2000 he was a member of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and has been Chairman of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Commission for Doctrine and Morals since 2001.

Having served as a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Family for many years, Cardinal Pell was appointed to the Presidential Committee of the Council in 2002. In 2005 he was appointed a member of the Supreme Committee of the Pontifical Missions Societies by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

In November 1998 Cardinal Pell attended the Synod for Oceania in Rome. He was appointed by Pope John Paul II to represent the Bishops of Australia and Oceania at the Special Synod for European Bishops in Rome in 1999, and at the Synod of Bishops held in October 2001. Pope Benedict XVI also appointed Cardinal Pell to the Synod of Bishops held in October 2006 to mark the close of the Year of the Eucharist. From 2001 to 2008 he served successive terms on the Council of the Synod of Bishops. In 2008 Pope Benedict appointed Cardinal Pell one of three President-Delegates of the Synod on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.

In April 2002 Cardinal Pell was named President of the Vox Clara Committee to advise the Congregation for Divine Worship on English translations of liturgical texts. He was appointed a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship in January 2005.

In February 2007 Cardinal Pell was appointed to the Council of Cardinals on Organisational and Economic Problems of the Holy See. In 2008 he was appointed to the Governing Committee of the International Catholic Migration Commission, which oversees relief work in support of migrants, refugees and displaced persons on behalf of the Holy See. In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Pell a member of both the newly-established Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation, and the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers.

In April 2005 Cardinal Pell took part in the Conclave of 115 Cardinal Electors which elected His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI as the successor to Pope John Paul II.

In February 1998 Cardinal Pell attended the Constitutional Convention in Canberra as a delegate appointed by the Prime Minister. He served on the Resolutions Committee responsible for drafting motions put to the Convention and moved the motion in support of the Republican model which was finally adopted by the Convention. On March 21st 2001 he addressed a joint sitting of the Victorian Parliament on the drug problem.

Cardinal Pell was awarded the Centenary Medal by the Australian Government on April 21st 2003, in recognition of his service to the Australian community through the Catholic Church. He was made a Companion in the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2005 for service to the Catholic Church in Australia and internationally, to raising debate on matters of an ethical and spiritual nature, to education, and to social justice.

Cardinal Pell was Grand Prior of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, Australian Lieutenancy – Southern, from 1998 to 2001, and was appointed Grand-Prior of the Order in New South Wales in 2001. Cardinal Pell was created Knight Grand Cross of the Order in 2003 to mark his elevation to the Sacred College of Cardinals.

Cardinal Pell’s long-standing commitment to ecumenism was recognized in 1998 with the conferral of the Grand Cross of Merit of the Order of Saint Lazarus, and his promotion to Ecclesiastic Grand Cross of St Lazarus, the Order’s highest ecclesiastical rank, in 2003. From 2001 to 2007 he served as the Order’s National Chaplain.

In 2007 Cardinal Pell was appointed Conventual Chaplain ad honorem of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. In 2008 he was invested Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion in the Order of Malta.

Cardinal Pell became a member of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St George in February 2011, being invested Bailiff Grand Cross of Justice in a ceremony at the Oratory Church in London.

Cardinal Pell’s work in inter-faith relations has included attendance at the Asia-Pacific Interfaith Dialogue (originally established as the Australian-Indonesian summit on inter-religious dialogue and terrorism) in 2004, 2006 and 2007. On each occasion, he attended the Dialogue as part of the official Australian delegation led by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Cardinal Pell as Archbishop both in Melbourne and Sydney has been involved in leading pilgrimages of young Australians to World Youth Days in Rome, Toronto and Cologne. Following the Toronto World Youth Day the Archdiocese of Sydney examined the possibility of hosting the event, placing a formal bid for this honour with the Holy See in 2005. The success of this bid was announced at the conclusion of World Youth Day in Cologne in August 2005. The twenty-third World Youth Day was held in Sydney from 15-20 July 2008, forming the largest gathering in Australia’s history. Over 110,000 registered pilgrims from more than 170 nations, including Pope Benedict XVI, travelled to Sydney for the occasion, together with another 123,000 registered pilgrims from Australia. 26 Cardinals, 420 Bishops, and 4,000 priests were also in attendance. Cardinal Pell celebrated the Opening Mass at Barangaroo on Sydney Harbour before 150,000 pilgrims on 15 July. At the Papal Arrival, 500,000 people welcomed Pope Benedict on his first visit to Australia, and the final Mass at Randwick Racecourse, which was celebrated by the Holy Father on 20 July, attracted over 400,000 people. 

Cardinal Pell’s interest in and support for young people, marriage and families has been demonstrated not only in his preaching and many public statements on these matters, but also in his involvement in founding the Australian campus of the international John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family; the institution of Australia’s first independent commissioner to handle sexual abuse complaints against clergy; and in the creation of the Mary of the Cross Centre in Melbourne to assist families with a member affected by drug or alcohol abuse. As Archbishop of Melbourne he commissioned the production of To Know, Worship and Love, a series of texts for use in religious education in Catholic schools. The series continues to be used in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, and was officially launched and mandated for use in the schools of the Archdiocese of Sydney at the end of 2003.

As Archbishop in Melbourne and Sydney Cardinal Pell established Life Offices  to promote deeper respect for human life from conception until natural death. In 2003 he inaugurated a competitive bi-annual grant from the Archdiocese of Sydney to support medical research into the development and application of treatments using adult stem cells. In  2008 Cardinal Pell’s work in defending the dignity of human life was recognised with the conferral of the US$100,000 Mysterium Vitae Award by the Archdiocese of Seoul in South Korea.

Cardinal Pell has written widely in religious and secular magazines, learned journals and newspapers in Australia and overseas, and regularly speaks on television and radio. He was editor of Light, the magazine of the Ballarat diocese from 1979 to 1984, and since 2001 he has been a weekly columnist for Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph. Cardinal Pell is a well-known public speaker, who has lectured in the United States of America, England, Ireland, New Zealand, Croatia, Canada and Korea, and every State of Australia.

In September 1996 Oxford University Press published Issues of Faith and Morals, written by Cardinal Pell for senior secondary classes and parish groups. 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), Issues of Faith and Morals (OUP, 1996), Catholicism and the Architecture of Freedom (1999), Be Not Afraid (2004), God and Caesar: Selected Essays on Religion, Politics and Society (2007), and Free for All: Negotiating Freedom in a World of Individuals (2009). Cardinal Pell’s most recent publication is Test Everything: Hold Fast to What is Good, a collection of talks and writings from recent decades, published by Connor Court in May 2010.

In earlier years Cardinal Pell was a keen sports coach in soccer, Aussie Rules and rowing. He is Vice Patron of the Richmond Football Club and a long term supporter and member of the Club since he signed to play with them in 1959.

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