Australian Cardinal George Pell, a leading Catholic conservative and former top Vatican official who was acquitted of sexual assault charges in 2020, died on Tuesday at age 81, his private secretary said.
Father Joseph Hamilton told Reuters that Pell died in Rome on Tuesday night. He said the Archdiocese of Sydney would issue a statement later. Church sources said they believed Pell died of cardiac arrest in a hospital in Rome.
In 2020, an Australian appeals court overturned Pell’s 2018 convictions for sexually assaulting two choirboys in the 1990s.
The ruling allowed the then 78-year-old Pell to walk free after serving 13 months in prison, ending the case of the top figure charged in the global scandal of historic sexual abuse that has rocked the Catholic Church worldwide.
Pell, a former archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney, served as the Vatican’s economy minister from 2014 until he took a leave of absence in 2017 to return to Australia to face charges.
He has lived in Rome since his acquittal in 2020.