Cardinal George Pell, a giant of the Catholic Church who was convicted and later cleared of sexual abuse in Australia, has died in Rome aged 81, a church official confirmed Wednesday. From humble beginnings in regional Australia, Pell climbed the ranks to become one of Pope Francis’s most trusted advisers inside the Vatican. He was also the highest-ranking Catholic to be imprisoned for child sexual abuse, before his convictions were quashed on appeal. While supporters praised Pell on Wednesday as a modern-day “saint”, victims of Church abuse said his death dredged up painful memories. Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher confirmed Pell died in Rome in the early hours of Wednesday. Former conservative Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said his friend’s name had been tainted by a “monstrous allegation”. “His incarceration on charges that the High Court ultimately scathingly dismissed was a modern form of crucifixion,” Abbott said Wednesday. “He strikes me as a saint for our times.” But Donald McLeish, from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Pell embodied the Church’s neglect of sexual abuse victims. “His name is known (by) survivors across the world,” he told AFP. “Not just for his inaction, but the coldness that he put towards victims and survivors. “He’s gone but the battle continues.” Pell’s body will be returned to Australia and buried in the crypt of St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, church officials said.