Pope Francis will deliver a final send-off for Cardinal George Pell in a funeral Mass on Saturday, the Vatican has said, as revelations emerge of the Australian prelate’s growing concern about what he considered the “disaster” and “catastrophe” of the papacy under Francis.
The Vatican on Thursday said the dean of the college of cardinals, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, will celebrate Mr Pell’s funeral Mass at St Peter’s Basilica.
As is custom for cardinals’ funerals, Francis will deliver a final commendation and salute.
Mr Pell, who was Francis’s first finance minister for three years before returning to Australia to face child sex abuse charges, died on Tuesday at a Rome hospital of heart complications after hip surgery. He was 81.
He had been dividing his time between Rome and Sydney after he was exonerated in 2020 of allegations that he abused two choirboys while he was archbishop of Melbourne.
Australia’s High Court overturned an earlier court conviction, and he was freed after 404 days in solitary confinement.
Mr Pell clashed repeatedly with the Vatican’s Italian bureaucracy during his 2014-17 term as prefect of the Holy See’s Secretariat for the Economy, which Francis created to try to get a handle on the Vatican’s opaque finances.
In his telegram of condolence, Francis credited him with laying the groundwork for the reforms, which have included imposing international standards for budgeting and accounting on Vatican offices.
But Mr Pell, a staunch conservative, became increasingly disillusioned with the direction of Francis’s papacy, including its emphasis on inclusion and canvassing of the laity about the future of the church.
He wrote a remarkable memorandum outlining his concerns, and recommendations for the next pope in a future conclave, which began circulating last spring and was published under a pseudonym, Demos, on Vatican blog Settimo Cielo.
Commentators of every school, if for different reasons... agree that this pontificate is a disaster in many or most respects; a catastropheDemos, aka Cardinal George Pell
The blogger Sandro Magister on Wednesday confirmed that Mr Pell was the author of the memo, which is an extraordinary indictment of the current pontificate by a one-time close collaborator of Francis.
Mr Pell remained a figurehead for conservatives during his incarceration and after his exoneration.
The memo is divided into two parts — The Vatican Today and The Next Conclave — and lists a series of points covering everything from Francis’s “weakened” preaching of the Gospel to the precariousness of the Holy See’s finances and a “lack of respect for the law” in the city-state, including in a current financial corruption trial that Mr Pell had championed.
“Commentators of every school, if for different reasons… agree that this pontificate is a disaster in many or most respects; a catastrophe,” he wrote.
Also on Wednesday, conservative magazine The Spectator published what it said was a signed article Mr Pell wrote in the days before he died, describing the “toxic nightmare” of Francis’s two-year canvassing of the Catholic laity about issues such as church teaching on sexuality and the role of women.