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Cardinal George Pell turns 80, loses right to vote in papal conclave
Cardinal George Pell at the annual Eucharistic procession at the Angelicum in Rome, May 13, 2021. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Rome, Italy, Jun 8, 2021 / 10:00 am (CNA).

Cardinal George Pell turned 80 years old on Tuesday, losing his eligibility to vote in a future papal conclave.

The Australian was made a cardinal by St. 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, 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 in 2019, he was ultimately acquitted. He returned to live in Rome on Sept. 30, 2020, his first visit back to the city since his trial and imprisonment.

Born on June 8, 1941, in Ballarat, Pell was ordained a priest for the diocese in 1966. He was made an auxiliary bishop of Melbourne in 1987, and nine years later he was named archbishop of Melbourne.

In 2001 he was appointed archbishop of Sydney, where he served until being appointed by Pope Francis to take charge of the newly created Secretariat for the Economy and to lead efforts at reforming Vatican financial affairs in 2014.

Cardinal Pell’s prison journal, written while he was in solitary confinement, is being published in three volumes. Ignatius Press released the second book on May 3.

Cardinal Pell has said he could not offer Mass in jail because he was not allowed access to wine for use in the consecration.

On May 13, Pell led a Eucharistic procession at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, also known as the Angelicum, in Rome, where he explained that during his 13 months in jail, he was “unable to celebrate Mass and attend Mass.”

“I listened to many Protestant preachers, and I became even more aware of the centrality of the liturgical celebration. It’s a making present of Christ’s sacrifice. It’s an explicit act of adoration. It involves the whole of our persons. It needs faith to be practiced,” he said.

St. Pope Paul VI established in 1970 that cardinals aged 80 and over could not participate in the process for electing a pope, citing “the problem of old age” and its significance for the “particularly serious and delicate tasks” of the office of cardinal.

In total, six cardinals have turned or will turn 80 years old in 2021, losing their right to vote in a conclave.

Among these is Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier of Durban, who turned 80 on March 8.

Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, will turn 80 years old on Aug. 18.

With the birthday of Cardinal Pell, the College of Cardinals consists of 222 members, of which 124 are cardinal electors.