The council for the Order awarded Cardinal Pell for his service to the Catholic Church, "to raising debate on matters of an ethical and spiritual nature, to education, and to social justice."
At a consistory in Rome on October 21, 2003, Sydney Archbishop George Pell was elevated to cardinal of the Catholic Church.
He received his red cap or biretta at St Peter's Square.
Cardinal Pell is the seventh Australian to become a Prince of the Church.
The date of his elevation to cardinal by Pope John Paul II coincided with the 25th anniversary week of the Pope's election.
As a cardinal, the Sydney Archbishop took part in the election of a new pope following the death of John Paul II on April 2, 2005, Rome time (April 3 in Sydney). Chosen Pontiff on April 19, Rome time (April 20, Sydney time), was German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger who took the papal name of Benedict XVI.
Born in a goldfields town
Cardinal Pell, 62, was Archbishop of Melbourne for five years before being named Archbishop of Sydney in 2001.
He was among 30 Catholic churchmen from around the world to be announced on September 28, 2003, by Pope John Paul II as new cardinals who were to be elevated to the position on October 21.
George Pell was born on June 8, 1941, in the Victorian goldfields town of Ballarat. His father, a goldmine manager, was Protestant, his mother Catholic. He was educated at Loreto Convent and St Patrick’s College in Ballarat.
He studied for the priesthood at Corpus Christi College, Werribee, and Propaganda Fide College, Rome. He was ordained a Catholic priest for the diocese of Ballarat by Cardinal Agagianian in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome, on December 16, 1966.
He gained a licentiate in theology in 1967 from the Urban University in Rome. This was followed in 1971, by a doctorate of philosophy in church history from Oxford. He received a masters degree in education from Melbourne's Monash University in 1982.
Worked in Victoria parishes
Cardinal Pell worked as an assistant priest in parishes around Victoria before he was named Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.
A reputed conservative, the Melbourne Archbishop refused Holy Communion to members of Rainbow Sash, a gay Catholic collective.
Like his predecessors in the Sydney archdiocese — Norman Gilroy, James Freeman and Edward Clancy, who were all elevated to cardinal — Cardinal Pell remains head of the Sydney archdiocese.
Australia's six earlier cardinals are:
- Cardinal Edward Cassidy, 1991-present
- Cardinal Edward Clancy, 1988-present
- Cardinal James Darcy Freeman, 1971-1983
- Cardinal James Robert Knox, 1967-1974
- Cardinal Norman Thomas Gilroy, 1940-1971
- Cardinal Patrick Francis Moran, 1884-1911.