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ABC News

St Mary's Cathedral crypt in Sydney to be George Pell's resting place

It's a nearly 100-year-old ornate crypt with "one of the finest mosaic floors in the world" and soon it will be the final resting place for Cardinal George Pell.

Australia's most senior Catholic died on Tuesday in Rome aged 81 after complications during hip surgery.

Cardinal Pell's body will be repatriated to Sydney and join seven other former archbishops whose remains are buried in the crypt below St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney's CBD

A timeline for the burial has not yet been confirmed, but it will mark a return to a site the Cardinal Pell knew well in life.

Cardinal Pell served as the eighth archbishop of Sydney between 2001 and 2014, when he left to take over the Vatican's finances.

It was reported in 2018 that a mausoleum was being prepared for Cardinal Pell beneath St Mary's in the event of his death.

The crypt, built in the 1930s, is the resting place of some of the most high-profile Australian Catholic figures.

They include the first archbishop of Sydney, John Bede Polding, who died in 1877, long before the crypt's completion in 1961.

His remains were later moved to St Mary's, as were the bodies of others who died before the crypt's conception.

The first colonial chaplain John Joseph Therry, who in 1821 was granted the land on which St Mary's Cathedral was built, is now buried there.

Norman Thomas Gilroy, a former Sydney archbishop and Australia's first cardinal, is also buried beneath the College Street cathedral.

The dimly lit caverns are adorned with tiled flooring depicting religious iconography.

Intricate slabs placed over each tomb feature inscriptions highlighting the achievements of the person below.

The crypt is usually opened to the public.

It is also used for art and liturgical exhibitions, music concerts, weddings and other special events.

In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI was hosted at the crypt during World Youth Day events and was welcomed there in a speech by Cardinal Pell.

Hundreds of mourners yesterday gathered at St Mary's for a special mass dedicated to Cardinal Pell. 

Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, told the congregation he met with the cardinal "several times" last week, while visiting Rome for the funeral of Pope Benedict XVI.

"He was, without doubt, Australia's most prominent ever churchman," Archbishop Fisher said. 

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