Cardinal George Pell — the man of God we know

Sunday Herald


TALL George Pell might have been anything other than a priest. That’s what most of his classmates expected. A teacher. A footballer for Richmond. A lawyer, maybe.

So when he lined up for the priesthood at the Werribee Corpus Christi seminary in the summer of 1960, it surprised many of his school friends.

Young George hit 6 ft 3 (1.9m) by the time he was 15. He was commanding and jovial, the centre of boarding house social life. The boys at St Patricks College, Ballarat, thought they had him worked out. But with a devout Irish Catholic mother and a priest uncle, the jump to the seminary may not have been so hard to fathom.

It emerged during his training years that he was a stickler for church-ordained truth and tradition. He loved a debate, particularly so because, as a former colleague says, he was “always right”. He was “dismissive” of those who didn’t agree with him.

His liturgical accent would have been at home in the wooden panels of a courtroom. At least two of his former classmates could more easily see a black lawyer’s gown billowing about his broad shoulders, a white wig on his head, not a cross hanging by a chain around his neck.

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