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Pope praises Pell for persevering in times of personal trials

FILE PHOTO: Head of the Catholic Church in Australia Cardinal George Pell leads the World Youth Day opening mass in Sydney, Australia July 15, 2008. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

Pope Francis on Wednesday praised the late Australian Cardinal George Pell for persevering in trying times, a reference to when he spent more than a year in prison on child sexual abuse accusations before he was fully acquitted.

In an Italian-language message sent to the dean of the College of Cardinals, Francis also thanked Pell, who served as the Holy See's economy minister, for laying groundwork for financial reform in the Vatican with "determination and wisdom".

Pell, a leading Catholic conservative, died on Tuesday night in Rome of cardiac arrest while in hospital for hip replacement surgery. He was 81.

In his message to the dean, Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Francis said he was saddened by the news of Pell's sudden death.

Francis called Pell a "faithful servant who, without vacillating, followed his Lord with perseverance even in the hour of trial".

The pope said he was grateful for Pell's "coherent and committed" dedication to the Church.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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