George Pell has featured many times in the pages of The Courier - unsurprisingly given how much a part Ballarat was of his early life. It was the town where he was born, went to school and where his career took shape.
Even after his career developed elsewhere, he would often feature prominently in his hometown newspaper - from his appointment as a bishop, through to his rise to cardinal.
While the earlier reporting was positive, the tone of the coverage shifted as his rise to the highest echelons of the Catholic Church evolved. Shortly after the turn of the century, Pell found himself under more and more pressure to justify the Catholic Church's approach to child sexual abuse, then later facing accusations of sexual abuse himself.
Below are just a few of the snapshots of how The Courier has covered his career, controversy and conviction.
Portrait unveiled at Aquinas College
March 26 1987: One of the earliest images of George Pell in the newspaper, with his star very much in the ascendant at the time.
The Courier report: Former Director of Aquinas College, Dr George Pell (second from left), returned to the College on Monday night to watch the unveiling of his portrait by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Ballarat, the Most Rev Ronald Mulkearns (right). Also viewing the portrait were the Aquinas advisory board chairman, Mr Geoff Torney (left) and the painter commissioned for the portrait, Mr Geoff Mainwaring. Dr Pell was college director from 1974 until 1984.... The painting was in recognition of his work at Aquinas College.
New Bishop visits old school
May 29, 1987:
The Courier report:Newly consecrated Bishop George Pell yesterday left his mark permanently on the school where he was football coach and chaplain for 10 years. He returned to Ballarat's St Francis Xavier Primary School "Villa Maria", Ballarat East to bless and open the new Assembly Hall.
Bishop Pell, 46, was consecrated an auxiliary bishop of Melbourne before a congregation of more than 1600, including children from the school, at Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral last week.
Villa Maria parents and friends association president Bill Jones recalled the keen rivalry with St Patrick's Primary School, Drummond Street, during Pell's days as Villa Maria's football coach.
"Bishop George we are proud of you and you are an inspiration to all of us at Villa," Mr Jones said.
School principal Sr Alice Driscoll said that when she came to Villa in 1981, Bishop Pell's fatherly concern for students was very evident.
Pell favourite to become a Cardinal
March 28, 2001
The Courier report: Ballarat-born Archbishop of Melbourne George Pell has been appointed Archbishop of Sydney, in a move tipped to be the stepping stone to becoming a cardinal. Archbishop Pell's new position - considered the highest in the Australian Catholic church - was announced by the Vatican on Monday night.
I'm very proud of my Ballarat connections and very grateful for all the good things I've received there and for the support of many friends and people in Ballarat and districtGeorge Pell, in a 2003 interview with The Courier
Pell admits his mistake in attending court with priest
June 4, 2002
The Courier report: Archbishop says he was ambushed by TV program. Catholic Archbishop George Pell admitted he had make a "mistake" in attending court with a priest later convicted of almost 50 child sex offences. Dr Pell said at the time of the 1993 court case he had little idea of the extent of the evil of Ballarat priest Gerald Ridsdale. Ridsdale, considered one of Australia's most notorious paedophiles was jailed for 18 years after pleading guilty to 46 charges involving 21 children.
Church admits victims asked to keep silent
June 10, 2002
The Courier report: The Catholic Church admitted yesterday victims of sexual abuse were abused to keep silent, contradicting Sydney Archbishop George Pell's denials over the past week that the practice took place.
The admission came amid fresh allegations of repeated rape by a current serving brother and claims the church denied sexual was going on for years.
A lawyer speaking on behalf of Dr Pell said confidentiality clauses had been kept in compensation agreements between the church and sex abuse victims, even though the church's own policy forbade any such conditions.
Date: September 30, 2003
The Courier report: Former Ballarat priest George Pell paid tribute to his home city yesterday in the wake of being named a cardinal. The Sydney Archbishop is Ballarat's first clergyman to receive the honour, which qualifies him to vote for the next pope. Dr Pell, who was born in Ballarat and served as priest in the diocese for almost 20 years, was one of 30 people appointed cardinal by Pope John Paul II on Sunday. Speaking to The Courier yesterday, Dr Pell said he was "enormously grateful" for his education at St Patrick's College and for his time in Ballarat, which formed the cornerstone of his career.
"I'm very proud of my Ballarat connections and very grateful for all the good things I've received there and for the support of many friends and people in Ballarat and district."
Dr Pell will be officially elevated to cardinal status in Rome on October 21. He described the appointment as "a great honour" and "very humbling".
Nothing to hide
November 14, 2012 (Royal commission announced)
Inside, The Courier's report began as follows: CARDINAL George Pell yesterday welcomed a national royal commission into child sexual abuse, calling it a chance to deal with the issue and "to separate fact from fiction".
The Ballarat-born Catholic cleric faced journalists in Sydney, telling a packed press conference that media reports had included "significant exaggeration" of the issue.
Answering all questions put to him, Cardinal Pell spoke on a wide range of issues, including his time in the same parish house as convicted paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale and his regret for supporting Fr Ridsdale during a 1993 trial. Cardinal Pell said he expected to be called to give evidence against claims he had participated in any cover-up of abuse by priests and would co-operate fully with the royal commission.
Culture of silence
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
AUSTRALIA'S most senior Catholic and former Ballarat priest Cardinal George Pell has admitted that a culture of ignorance and silence led to the scourge of sexual abuse across Victoria.
Within The Courier's reporting reads as follows:
Cynical crowd demands truth from Cardinal -
Cardinal George Pell's appearance at the state government inquiry into institutionalised child abuse was less than convincing yesterday. Cardinal Pell blustered his way through some tough grilling, exchanging particularly terse words with committee member Andrea Coote over any potential church compensation.
He gave long-winded answers, often veered off topic and was critical of a committee decision not to allow him a brief opening statement, which is in line with previous testimonies by anyone dealing with abused children. He constantly defended the church's actions but provoked laughter when he accidentally referred to the Holy See as a company.
A huge crowd turned up for Cardinal Pell's appearance, with the Parliament House Legislative Council committee room and a second viewing area both overflowing. Many of the crowd had waited a long time to hear Cardinal Pell speak, with many of his answers received with cynical laughter. "I've waited 18 years to get this bloke, I can wait a bit longer," one elderly gentleman said to a Parliament House staffer apologising for a slow lift.
Pell to return to face accusers
June 30, 2017
What it said on the front page: Sexual abuse charges laid against Australia's highest-ranked Catholic have grabbed headlines worldwide, but survivors say Ballarat must stay committed to the wider issue. Police were tight-lipped about details of the historical abuse charges against Ballarat's Cardinal George Pell and maintained court proceedings must be allowed to proceed unhindered. Cardinal Pell, who vehemently protests his innocence, released a statement within hours saying he welcomed his day in court and would return to Australia for the hearing.
Inside: CARDINAL George Pell will take leave from his position as the Vatican's finance chief to return to Australia to fight historical sexual charges. Victoria Police on Thursday charged by summons the 76-year-old high-ranking Catholic cleric with offences against multiple complainants. Australia's most senior Catholic says he is innocent and wants his day in court after being charged on summons with historical sexual assault offences involving multiple complainants.
Pope Francis has granted Cardinal Pell a leave of absence to return to Australia to defend himself. "I'm looking forward, finally, to having my day in court," Cardinal Pell said. "I'm innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.
Where to from here?
February 27, 2019
The Courier's front page on the day the reporting ban in George Pell's conviction was lifted.
The front page intro: Almost three years to the day since Cardinal George Pell made promises to sexual abuse survivors about healing in Ballarat, news broke about him being found guilty of child sex offences. While the cardinal maintains his innocence, Ballarat's survivor advocates are asking what the next steps are in repairing the damage.
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