Letters from Rome: #5 | George Weigel | First Things

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

For God’s sake let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings.
[Richard II. 3.2]

Cardinal George Pell, who died suddenly of cardiac arrest following a successful hip replacement operation on January 10, would scorn the notion that he was any sort of king, or even a prince—though he was, in fact, a Prince of the Church and, in the hearts of many Catholics, the titular leader of dynamic Catholic orthodoxy after the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Notwithstanding his guffaws from his present station in the Communion of Saints, however, George Pell was every bit as tremendous a figure in contemporary Catholicism as the kings whose death Richard II lamented in Shakespeare’s incomparable language. How so? Let me count (some of) the ways.

Virtually single-handedly, Pell stanched the doctrinal and disciplinary bleeding in Australian Catholicism that would likely have led that local Church to become a less-well-funded simulacrum of the apostate Catholicism now on display in Germany. 

He was the driving force behind the revision (and vast improvement) of the English translations of the prayers of the Roman Rite, which are now more accurate, more elegant and prayerful, and more faithful to the Latin originals.

He played a significant role in the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Benedict XVI and then brought that pope (with whom he had worked when Ratzinger was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) to Sydney for World Youth Day 2008: an event that had a percussive effect Down Under not unlike what happened to Catholicism in the United States after World Youth Day 1993—which is to say, it transformed the New Evangelization from a slogan into an ecclesial grand strategy with real, on-the-ground pastoral effects.


Letters from Rome: #5 | George Weigel | First Things

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