Pell’s 2018 conviction for sexual assault shocked the Catholic Church, but was later quashed.
Australian Cardinal George Pell, a former Vatican treasurer who was the most senior member of the Catholic clergy to be convicted of child sex abuse before his conviction was overturned, has died aged 81 .
Pell died in Rome on Tuesday night, his personal secretary said.
He was once the third highest-ranked Catholic in the Vatican after previously serving as archbishop of Melbourne and archbishop of Sydney.
Archbishop Peter Comensoli, the current Archbishop of Melbourne, said Cardinal Pell died of heart complications following hip surgery.
“Cardinal Pell is a very important and influential Church leader, both in Australia and internationally, deeply committed to Christian discipleship,” he said in a statement on Facebook.
This decision allowed the then 78-year-old Cardinal Pell to move freely. He is the most senior member of the church to be accused of historic sexual abuse in a scandal that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church worldwide.
Pell was the Vatican’s economy minister from 2014 until he took a leave of absence in 2017 to return to Australia to face assault charges.
He has lived in Rome since his acquittal and has had several meetings with Pope Francis. He attended last week’s funeral of Pope Benedict XVI.
Even before the sexual assault allegations, Pell was a divisive figure in Australia, revered by conservative Catholics but scorned by liberals for his staunch opposition. same-sex marriage, abortion and the ordination of women.