Vatican farewell for Cardinal George Pell

Cardinal George Pell is to be farewelled in a mass at St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, the same church where the funeral for former pope Benedict was held last week.

The most senior Australian member of the Catholic Church died in Rome this week at the age of 81 from heart complications after hip surgery.

The funeral mass will be held on Saturday at the basilica, where Pope Francis will give a final commendation.

It comes nine days after Cardinal Pell attended the funeral of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI where the Archbishop of Sydney, Reverend Anthony Fisher said he was "in sparkling form - witty and wise".

The funeral will begin at 11.30am local time, which is 9.30pm AEDT.

In keeping with tradition for deceased cardinals, the Mass will be said by the dean of the College of Cardinals, Italian Giovanni Battista Re, and the Pope will give the final blessing and commendation.

The cardinal will also be farewelled in a local funeral at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, before being interred at St Mary's crypt.

No date has been set for the local mass, which is expected to take place within a fortnight.

Catholics around the country will be paying their respects and praying for Cardinal Pell over the weekend, a spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney said.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Victoria's Daniel Andrews ruled out holding state services for the former archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney.

However, Mr Perrottet said a memorial service, organised by the Archdiocese of Sydney, would take place in Sydney.

Mr Andrews said on Thursday a state funeral or memorial would be distressing for victim-survivors, but the cardinal's legacy would be for others to judge.

Following his death, it was revealed the conservative cardinal criticised Pope Francis in anonymous memos, calling his papacy a "disaster" and "catastrophe".

In memos published under the pseudonym Demos, Cardinal Pell criticised steps taken by the pontiff which he said weakened the teachings of the gospel, Italian journalist Sandro Magister disclosed on Wednesday.

"Commentators of every school, if for different reasons ... agree that this pontificate is a disaster in many or most respects; a catastrophe," Cardinal Pell wrote.

The memos criticise the Pope's silence on issues involving the Church including openness to the LGBTQI community, women priests and divorce and included what the author said should be the qualities of the next pope.

"Everyone here is talking about it," said one Vatican official who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity.

The official said he did not doubt that Pell was the author but said the revelation should have been held back until after his funeral "out of respect for the dead".

Father Joseph Hamilton, Pell's personal secretary, declined to comment on Magister's report and Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni said he had no comment.

High-profile Baptist minister Tim Costello told AAP that Cardinal Pell shared more in common with the former pope Benedict than Pope Francis, who is more inclusive and less prescriptive in his approach.

Rev Costello said Cardinal Pell was mistaken that in a "post-Christian society" the best way for the Church to get its message across was by lecturing.

"I think he (Cardinal Pell) still had a view that the church is the major force within society," Rev Costello said.

with Reuters