Australian Cardinal George Pell died Tuesday in Rome at age 81 after suffering a cardiac arrest following a routine hip replacement surgery, his secretary confirmed to EWTN.

Church leaders in Australia reacted with sadness and shock at the news of Pell’s death. “May eternal light now be his, who so steadfastly believed in the God of Jesus Christ,” Comensoli wrote on Twitter.

At his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis praised Pell’s dedication to the Church.

“I offer sentiments of heartfelt condolence,” the pope said in a Jan. 11 message, “remembering with a grateful heart his consistent and committed witness, his dedication to the Gospel and the Church, and particularly his diligent cooperation with the Holy See in the context of its recent economic reform, of which he laid the foundations with determination and wisdom.”

The prime minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese, said a memorial Mass will be held for Pell at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, where he will be buried, according to Sky News Australia.

Pell’s funeral Mass will be held at the Vatican. The date has not yet been announced.

Pell, prefect emeritus of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, recently remembered Pope Benedict XVI during an EWTN News In Depth Interview shortly after the late pope's death.

The Australian was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in October 2003, while he was archbishop of Sydney. Ten years later, Pope Francis appointed Pell a member of his Council of Cardinals, and the year after, he put him in charge of Vatican finances.

In 2017, Pell left Rome for Australia to defend his innocence of abuse charges. After 404 days in prison he was ultimately acquitted in 2020. He returned to live in Rome on Sept. 30, 2020, his first visit back to the city since his trial and imprisonment.

More in Vatican

Below are photos of Pell throughout his time as cardinal.

Newly appointed Cardinal George Pell of Australia kisses Pope John Paul II's hand in St. Peter's Square Oct. 21, 2003, at the Vatican during the ordination ceremony of new cardinals. Photo by PAOLO COCCO/AFP via Getty Images
Newly appointed Cardinal George Pell of Australia kisses Pope John Paul II's hand in St. Peter's Square Oct. 21, 2003, at the Vatican during the ordination ceremony of new cardinals. Photo by PAOLO COCCO/AFP via Getty Images
Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal George Pell smile at one another while thanking all the volunteers at The Domain on July 21, 2008, in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal George Pell smile at one another while thanking all the volunteers at The Domain on July 21, 2008, in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, unveils Australia's first pure gold (L) and silver (R) coins commemorating the canonization of Mary MacKillop in Sydney on Sept. 30, 2010. Photo by TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP via Getty Images
Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, unveils Australia's first pure gold (L) and silver (R) coins commemorating the canonization of Mary MacKillop in Sydney on Sept. 30, 2010. Photo by TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP via Getty Images
Australian Cardinal George Pell (R) and Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze arrive for a meeting on the eve of the start of a conclave on March 11, 2013, at the Vatican. Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images
Australian Cardinal George Pell (R) and Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze arrive for a meeting on the eve of the start of a conclave on March 11, 2013, at the Vatican. Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images
Australian Cardinal George Pell as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy of the Holy See attends a press conference on March 31, 2014, at the Vatican. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images
Australian Cardinal George Pell as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy of the Holy See attends a press conference on March 31, 2014, at the Vatican. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images
Cardinal George Pell leaves the opening session of the Synod on the themes of family at Synod Hall on Oct. 5, 2015, in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by Giulio Origlia/Getty Images)
Cardinal George Pell leaves the opening session of the Synod on the themes of family at Synod Hall on Oct. 5, 2015, in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by Giulio Origlia/Getty Images)

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Australian Cardinal George Pell on June 29, 2017. Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images
Australian Cardinal George Pell on June 29, 2017. Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images
Former archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell attends the Chrism Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on April 13, 2017, in Vatican City, Vatican. Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images
Former archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell attends the Chrism Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on April 13, 2017, in Vatican City, Vatican. Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images
Cardinal George Pell arrives at Melbourne County Court on Feb. 27, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. Michael Dodge/Getty Images
Cardinal George Pell arrives at Melbourne County Court on Feb. 27, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. Michael Dodge/Getty Images
Cardinal George Pell gives an interview to EWTN News in Rome, Italy, on Dec. 9, 2020. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Cardinal George Pell gives an interview to EWTN News in Rome, Italy, on Dec. 9, 2020. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Australian Cardinal George Pell leaves after being released from Barwon Prison near Anakie, some 70 kilometers west of Melbourne, on April 7, 2020. Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images
Australian Cardinal George Pell leaves after being released from Barwon Prison near Anakie, some 70 kilometers west of Melbourne, on April 7, 2020. Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images
Former Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell attends the Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on April 16, 2022, in Vatican City, Vatican. Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images
Former Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell attends the Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on April 16, 2022, in Vatican City, Vatican. Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images
Cardinal George Pell at the annual Eucharistic procession at the Angelicum in Rome, May 13, 2021. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.
Cardinal George Pell at the annual Eucharistic procession at the Angelicum in Rome, May 13, 2021. Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.