Religion News Australia

January 8 – 15, 2023

Religion news stories from Australia

(Research: Greg Spearritt)



Father of ex-choirboy who George Pell was accused of abusing will proceed with Victorian lawsuit (The Guardian, Australia)
Jan 11 – The father of a deceased ex-choirboy who George Pell was accused of sexually abusing while he was Archbishop of Melbourne will continue his civil action against the cardinal.

Cardinal George Pell divides opinion in death as in life (The Guardian, Australia)
Jan 11 – The death of Cardinal George Pell has prompted dramatically polarised reactions, with church officials praising his service while others shared messages of support for victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.

Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s most powerful Catholic, who was dogged by scandal – obituary (The Guardian, Australia)
Jan 11 – The Australian cardinal George Pell rose from modest beginnings to become one of the world’s most powerful Catholics but his reputation was fatally damaged by association with the church’s child sexual abuse scandals in his home country.

Cardinal George Pell’s death isn’t the end or a celebration for child sex abuse survivors (ABC News)
Jan 12 – (Opinion: Louise Milligan) “Today, it is like a radio station in my head, and it keeps on flicking over to different stations and some of them are louder than other stations. I wish I could take the batteries out so there was silence.

‘We believe you’: Andrews sends message to child sex abuse victims in wake of Pell’s death (Sydney Morning Herald)
Jan 12 – Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has said survivors of sexual abuse should be foremost in people’s thoughts in his first public comments following the death of Cardinal George Pell.

‘He didn’t even look me in the eye’: one survivor on how George Pell chose the church over children (The Guardian, Australia)
Jan 13 – John Ellis, in his decades-long battle for justice from the church, came to learn two things about George Pell.

Ballarat mass urges support for abuse victims – and forgiveness for the church (The Guardian, Australia)
Jan 13 – In recent years, thousands of coloured ribbons have been tied to the gates of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Ballarat – small but eye-catching symbols of support for survivors of child sexual abuse.

A school principal gave up everything to blow the whistle… George Pell hung up on him (The Guardian, Australia)
Jan 15 – Graeme Sleeman resigned in disgust after complaining about Father Peter Searson in the 1980s and suspects he was then blacklisted


Sydney Archbishop backs gambling reforms to prevent ‘social harm’ (Sydney Morning Herald)
Jan 15 – The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney has backed government efforts to tackle problem gambling but stopped short of endorsing the use of a mandatory cashless card for gaming machines.

Death of Cardinal Pell

Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s top-ranking Catholic, dies in Rome aged 81 (ABC News)
Jan 11 – Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s highest-ranked Catholic cleric, has died in Rome at the age of 81.

George Pell: A polarising Catholic figure who rose higher – and fell lower – than any Australian prelate (Sydney Morning Herald)
Jan 11 – (Opinion: Barney Zwartz) George Pell was by far the best known and most polarising churchman in Australia in the past century, perhaps ever.

A life lived for the Church and its founder (The Australian)
Jan 11 – (Opinion: Tess Livingstone) George Pell’s life reflected his episcopal motto ‘Be Not Afraid’. Thousands around the world, who appreciated his brave faith will be praying for his soul.

Pell was no bully … he was a Christian gentleman (The Australian)
Jan 11 – (Opinion: Peter Elliott) Others may pay tribute to his mark on the Australian church, but I prefer to recall George Pell as the gifted man I first met at Oxford in late 1967.

‘Inspirational’ Cardinal Pell ‘a saint for our times’: Abbott (The Australian)
Jan 11 – Tony Abbott says he’s confident George Pell’s ‘reputation will grow’ after the Cardinal died in Rome from complications following hip surgery.

‘Better appreciated overseas’: Pell’s brother speaks (The Australian)
Jan 11 – George Pell’s brother David says the Cardinal ‘didn’t deserve’ the treatment he received in Australia, singling out large parts of the media.

Cardinal George Pell remembered as a powerful man with influence inside the Vatican (ABC News)
Jan 12 – Within the walls of the Vatican, the shock death of Australian Cardinal George Pell has sent shock waves, as many remember a man with a large but controversial legacy in the city state.

How George Pell rose from country Victoria to become Australia’s most senior Catholic (ABC News)
Jan 12 – George Pell has arguably been Australia’s most prominent religious figure over the past few decades, and one of its most controversial.

St Mary’s Cathedral crypt in Sydney to be George Pell’s resting place (ABC News)
Jan 12 – It’s a nearly 100-year-old ornate crypt with “one of the finest mosaic floors in the world” and soon it will be the final resting place for Cardinal George Pell.

God’s ruckman: Pell played church politics hard but won few fans (Sydney Morning Herald)
Jan 12 – (Opinion: Miles Pattenden) Everyone had a view on George Pell.

High-ranking job at Vatican made him a target (The Australian)
Jan 12 – (Opinion: Dennis Shanahan ) George Pell’s task of ‘cleaning up’ the Catholic Church meant he had a target on his back from the moment he was appointed.

A great servant and teacher lost to the church (The Australian)
Jan 12 – (Opinion: Tony Abbott ) In keeping both his faith and his cool, in not succumbing to despair in desolate circumstances, Pell is truly a saint for our times.

A friend who had little time to give but always found some (The Australian)
Jan 12 – (Opinion: Tess Livingstone) George Pell was always generous with his time, regularly calling mates going through various treatments and flying home for funerals of old acquaintances.

Injustices like these must not be allowed to happen again (The Australian)
Jan 12 – (Opinion: Chris Merritt ) George Pell’s imprisonment for 405 days is one of the worst miscarriages of justice in Australian history, ranking alongside the murder conviction of Lindy Chamberlain.

George Pell’s death symbolises the demise of a church out of touch and out of time (The Guardian, Australia)
Jan 12 – (Opinion: Francis Sullivan) Cardinal George Pell died as he lived, a fierce defender of the Catholic church and of conservative Catholicism.

George Pell slammed Pope Francis as ‘disaster’, ‘catastrophe’ in anonymous memo (Sydney Morning Herald)
Jan 13 – Rome: The late Cardinal George Pell has been outed as the author of an explosive anonymous memo that condemned Pope Francis’ papacy as a disaster and catastrophe and accused him of silence on moral issues such as the war in Ukraine, human rights in China and a push to open the church to women priests.

Also: George Pell wrote memo calling papacy of Pope Francis a ‘catastrophe’ (The Guardian, Australia)
Jan 13 – Cardinal George Pell was the author of an anonymous memo condemning the papacy of Pope Francis as a “catastrophe” where political correctness held sway while global wrongs were ignored, says the journalist who published it.

Also: Shocking ‘secret’ memo attacking the Pope ensures George Pell’s crusade will outlive him (ABC News)
Jan 15 – (Opinion: Noel Debien) For better or worse, Cardinal George Pell’s influence is far from over.

Andrews blasted over Pell jibe (The Australian)
Jan 13 – Daniel Andrews has been branded ‘an insult in search of a target’ for saying he cannot think of ‘anything more distressing’ for victims of church child sex abuse than granting George Pell a state ­funeral.

George Pell saw climate science as a dangerous religious dogma – [and] held the church back (The Guardian, Australia)
Jan 13 – (Opinion: Graham Readfearn) The late Cardinal George Pell left a legacy of climate science denial which – in his later years – became ever more distanced from reality and the position of the Catholic church.

George Pell will be remembered as a reformer with ‘a big heart’ by some but reviled by others (ABC News)
Jan 14 – Forty-eight hours after Cardinal George Pell launched a review of major transactions at the Vatican Bank in 2014, something happened that his then-offsider Danny Casey describes as a “remarkable coincidence”.

Cardinal George Pell’s final days spent writing furiously about the Catholic Church’s ‘toxic nightmare’ (ABC News)
Jan 14 – Cardinal George Pell had told friends of his desire to spend his final years in Australia, but in the end, he would spend some of his last days furiously working on a fierce criticism of the Vatican.

‘Boots-and-all’ style of Catholicism to roll on after Pell’s death (Sydney Morning Herald)
Jan 14 – The pugilistic style of Cardinal George Pell has put a lasting conservative imprint on the Catholic Church in Australia and one archbishop says his death will make no difference to the way the church operates.

The missed opportunity that will define the legacy of Cardinal George Pell (Brisbane Times)
Jan 14 – (Opinion: Chip Le Grand) Instead of flights of angels, the death of Cardinal George Pell provoked another roiling culture war to sing the cardinal to his rest.

Every clash I had with George Pell made me wish I had the umpire’s whistle (The Age, Melbourne)
Jan 14 – (Opinion: Paul Collins) I first met George Pell on the football field in the early 1960s.

Media pile-on fuelled by flawed commission (The Australian)
Jan 14 – (Opinion: Gerard Henderson) It became all but impossible for George Pell to get a fair trial due to media coverage of the royal commission into the institutional response to child sexual abuse.

Pell’s attackers have always been wide of the mark (The Australian)
Jan 14 – (Opinion: Angela Shanahan) The deep antipathy to the late cardinal went further back than the unjust sexual abuse charge and his subsequent imprisonment.

The love of Christ was the heart of my friend’s life (The Australian)
Jan 14 – (Opinion: Greg Sheridan) George Pell was not only the most important Catholic leader Australia has ever produced, he was also one of the most important cardinals from an English-speaking background.

Why Pell’s legacy will cast a long shadow over the Vatican (The Australian)
Jan 14 – (Opinion: Tess Livingstone) The Australian cardinal was one of the few in Rome able to reverse the decline of Catholicism. At the next conclave his absence will be felt, but so will his presence, especially through his writings.

A true giant of the church (The Australian)
Jan 14 – (Opinion: Anthony Fisher) Isaac Newton famously said: ‘If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of ­giants’. With the passing of George Pell, the Catholic church bids farewell to one of its giants.

Why the Catholic warrior ultimately lost on marriage equality, climate and abortion (The Guardian, Australia)
Jan 14 – (Opinion: Christopher Knaus) Unquestionable power within the church and an ability to bend the ear of conservative politicians could not stave off progress on issues the cardinal saw as threats.

Catholic Church

The Vatican has reopened the investigation into the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi (ABC News)
Jan 11 – The Vatican has reopened an investigation into the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, who went missing as a 15-year-old in 1983.

Pope Francis praises George Pell for persevering ‘even in the hour of trial’ (The Age, Melbourne)
Jan 12 – London: Pope Francis has praised the late George Pell for persevering “even in the hour of trial”, a reference to the year he spent in prison on child sexual abuse accusations before he was fully acquitted.

Disgraced cardinal and rival ‘prays for Pell’s forgiveness’ (The Australian)
Jan 12 – George Pell’s arch rival within the Vatican, who has denied sending money to Australia to fund the charges against him, has prayed God will ‘forgive’ the late cardinal.

Bishops trading in the transcendent for a bigger tent (The Australian)
Jan 13 – (Opinion: George Pell) The Catholic Synod of Bishops has produced one of the most incoherent documents ever sent out from Rome.

Funeral for Cardinal George Pell held at the Vatican with Pope Francis giving final blessing (ABC News)
Jan 15 – Pope Francis has delivered a final blessing at the funeral of Cardinal George Pell in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.


Silver-plated menorahs, tableware hidden by Jewish owners during WWII uncovered in Polish home (ABC News)
Jan 14 – The discovery in central Poland of hundreds of objects that were most likely hidden by their Jewish owners during World War II provided a rare and precious find, officials have said.

Religious Violence

Afghan women athletes speak of the heartache of being barred from the sports they love (ABC News)
Jan 12 – Noura’s determination to play sports was so great that she defied her family’s opposition for years. Beatings from her mother and jeers from her neighbours never stopped her from the sports she loved.

Suicide blast kills at least 20 outside Afghan Foreign Ministry in Kabul (ABC News)
Jan 12 – At least 20 people have been killed in a suicide bomb attack outside the Afghan Foreign Ministry in Kabul, a Taliban official says, while more than 40 wounded have been sent to a nearby hospital.

The Taliban and the US agreed to bring peace to Afghanistan (ABC News)
Jan 13 – “Bringing peace to Afghanistan” — that was the bold promise at the heart of the 2020 agreement between the US government and the Taliban to end 20 years of war and terror.


How Shinzo Abe’s murder and his ties to Moonies blindsided Japanese politics (The Guardian, Australia)
Jan 11 – In the days after Shinzo Abe was shot dead last summer while making an election campaign speech, commentators struggled to articulate a motive for a seemingly senseless attack on Japan’s former and longest-serving prime minister in a country admired for its near-absence of gun crime.

Inquiry alleges fake prophet, partying and fights derailed Sri Lanka Cup tilt (Sydney Morning Herald)
Jan 13 – An inquiry into Sri Lanka’s disastrous World Cup campaign has uncovered allegations of corruption, players partying at casinos and the influence of a fake prophet.


‘They’ll pick the white guy’: Usman Khawaja on race and smashing cricket’s inner sanctum (Brisbane Times)
Jan 13 – “Did you grow up supporting the Australian cricket team?” asks Usman Khawaja, before nodding his head in understanding when I, a fellow Pakistani-born Australian, admitted that I didn’t.


The threat of rising anti-Semitic incidents must not be ignored (The Age, Melbourne)
Jan 15 – (Opinion: Gabi Kaltmann) As a child, I remember the weight of invisible relatives who were murdered during the Holocaust.


Dutton says Pell’s conviction a ‘political persecution’, singles out Andrews government (The Age, Melbourne)
Jan 12 – Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has called George Pell’s overturned child sex conviction a “modern-day political persecution”, saying the Andrews government should reflect on how Victoria’s legal institutions gave rise to the former cardinal’s 404-day imprisonment.

Daniel Andrews ‘couldn’t think of anything more distressing’ for victims than a state funeral for Pell (The Guardian, Australia)
Jan 12 – Two Australian state governments will not offer taxpayer-funded public funerals for Cardinal George Pell, with the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, saying his decision was made out of respect for victims of institutional child sexual abuse.

Also: Daniel Andrews’ candid comments after George Pell’s death reflect a long-held stance (The Guardian, Australia)
Jan 15 – Responding to the death of George Pell – a staunch conservative found guilty and then acquitted of child sexual abuse – is inevitably a political minefield.


‘This can’t stand’: Hateful neo-Nazi messages left in Brisbane letterboxes (Brisbane Times)
Jan 11 – A neo-Nazi presence in Brisbane has been leaving disturbing – albeit nonsensical – promotional material in letterboxes around leafy inner suburbs calling on residents to join up.