Pope Francis sent a letter to the family of Australia’s former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam which reveals he personally prayed for him after hearing news of his death.
Whitlam, who was Australia’s 21st Prime Minister, passed away aged 98 last month.
Fairfax Media reports the letter was read at a memorial mass on Monday night in Rome, held by former Australian archbishop Cardinal George Pell who is now the Vatican’s Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.
“His Holiness Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the death of your father,” the letter from Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin said.
“He sends prayerful condolences to your family … and to all who mourn his passing.
“His Holiness recalls with gratitude your father’s many years of service … The Holy Father has prayed for your father’s eternal repose.”
An attendee said Pell reportedly labelled Whitlam as “one of the great figures in Australian history”.
Whitlam set up state funding for Catholic schools and established diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Australia, actions which Pell said the Catholic church remains grateful for.
A state memorial service for Whitlam is being held at Sydney Town Hall today, starting at 11am.
There’s more here.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.