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Australian Cardinal George Pell has died, personal secretary says

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Australian Cardinal George Pell gestures as he speaks during an interview with Reuters in Rome, Italy December 7, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo

Australian Cardinal George Pell, a leading Roman Catholic conservative and former top Vatican official who in 2020 was acquitted of sexual abuse allegations, died on Tuesday at the age of 81, his private secretary said.

Fr. Joseph Hamilton told Reuters that Pell died in Rome on Tuesday night. He said the archdiocese of Sydney would be issuing a statement later. Church sources said they believed Pell died of cardiac arrest in a Rome hospital.

An Australian appeals court ruling in 2020 quashed convictions that Pell sexually assaulted two choir boys in the 1990s. He spent 13 months in jail.

The ruling allowed the then-78-year-old Pell to walk free, ending the case of the most senior figure accused in the global scandal of historical sex abuse that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church worldwide.

Pell, a former archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney, served as Vatican as economy minister from 2014 until he took a leave of absence in 2017 to return to Australia to face the charges.

He had been living in Rome since his acquittal in 2020.

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