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Cardinal Pell takes possession of his Roman Church

Sydney's Cardinal George Pell has taken possession of his titular church on the outskirts of Rome - Santa Maria Domenica Mazzarello - named after the founder of the Salesian Order of nuns.

He hailed the occasion as a sign of the unity and the universality of the Catholic Church.

Saturday's evening's mass was attended by 36 Australian Bishops in Rome on their ad limina visit. Other special guests included Australia's Ambassador to the Holy See, Dr John Herron and Cardinal Francis Stafford.

Each new Cardinal is traditionally assigned a titular Church in the Rome Diocese so they can become a priest of the Rome diocese to elect the Pope (who is the Bishop of Rome).

Santa Maria Domenica Mazzarello is a new Church in a city of ancient Churches, having been built in 1997 to seat 350.

Cardinal Pell said he was honoured to be a Cardinal of the Church and to take possession of Santa Maria Domenica Mazzarello Church.

"As an Australian it's interesting to see that also here in Europe, not only in Australia, the Church has to erect new parishes, construct new Churches in the new suburbs," he said in his opening remarks.

Before preaching on the parable of the Prodigal Son, Cardinal Pell spoke of the "miracle of the unity and universality of the Catholic Church". He said over the centuries, the Church had suffered much from schisms and heresies.

"As a Cardinal and a Bishop, it's part of my duty to support the Holy Father in maintaining this unity, both locally, within parishes, dioceses, a nation, but also internationally, across the continents."

Desmond O'Grady reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday that Pell met the parish priest after being nominated as cardinal. Fr Giuseppe Ponzoni, 53, described him as "unassuming and interested in the parish", with an adequate grasp of Italian.

Of the 12,000 parishioners, only 10% regularly attend church. Almost 100% attend for baptisms, funerals and on Palm Sunday. The parish has high unemployment and hundreds of eastern European or North African migrants.

"Cardinal Pell is a link with the Pope," Fr Ponzoni said. "What is more, he links us with the church in Australia."

Cardinal Pell takes possession of his Roman Church (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 20/3/04)

Welcome to the parish of Pell, by George (Sydney Morning Herald 20/3/04)
It's a church by George (Herald-Sun 22/3/04 - payment required)
Cardinals to take possesion of titles and diaconates (Vatican Information Service 18/3/04)

22 Mar 2004