Cardinal Pell says prison helped him understand Christ’s suffering

PHOENIX (CNS) – Australian Cardinal George Pell, jailed for more than a year for crimes of sexual abuse of which he was ultimately cleared, said the experience enabled him to understand suffering as a redemptive process which allows one to identify closely with Christ.

“Suffering accepted in faith can be good and useful. Like gold, it can be used for good purposes, ”Cardinal Pell said at a gathering of Catholic health professionals and their guests in Phoenix on November 20.

Reminding his audience, Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever does not accept his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple,” said the cardinal, “this makes it difficult for Christians”.

Cardinal George Pell, jailed for more than a year for crimes of sexual abuse of which he was ultimately cleared, said the experience helped him understand suffering as a process of redemption.

But, he added, “It was through his suffering and death as a helpless victim that the Lord redeemed us.

“All of this only makes sense if we accept with faith that suffering can be redemptive – transformed into a good end when it is united with the suffering and death of Jesus,” continued the cardinal. “It is by his sufferings and his death as a helpless victim that the Lord has redeemed us; released grace so that our sins and the worst crimes can be forgiven.

Former Prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for Economic Affairs, Cardinal Pell left office in 2017 to defend himself. The office oversees Vatican finances and the cardinal was considering several reforms at the time.

He was convicted by an Australian jury in late 2018 of assaulting two altar boys in 1996 while he was Archbishop of Melbourne. He spent 405 days behind bars, including five months in solitary confinement to protect him from attack in prison.

“Suffering accepted in faith can be good and useful. Like gold, it can be used for good purposes, ”said Cardinal Pell.

Cardinal Pell had claimed his innocence, but after the verdict was made public in February 2019, he was sentenced to a maximum of six years in prison – with the possibility of parole after three years and eight months. It was not until April 7, 2020, when the High Court of Australia, acting on the cardinal’s appeal, found that the trial jury had failed to give the testimony proper weight.

The High Court overturned the conviction. He cited a reasonable doubt in the testimony of Cardinal Pell’s sole accuser, stating that there was “a significant possibility that an innocent person (was) convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt at the evidentiary level. required ”.

In a statement on the day of his release, Cardinal Pell said he had “no ill will” towards his accuser.

During Cardinal Pell’s visit to Phoenix, he was greeted by local church leaders and lay people.

Former Prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for Economic Affairs, Cardinal Pell left office in 2017 to defend himself.

“For over 13 months he was a prisoner for a crime he did not commit. His testimony to religious freedom and the rights of conscience – staying true to the truth – is certainly something we are all grateful for, ”Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix told the Catholic News Service.

“I was so impressed with his calm demeanor. He had an experience that none of us can understand, ”added Dr. Thomas D. Shellenberger, President of the Catholic Physicians Guild of Phoenix. The guild is part of the National Catholic Medical Association, which promotes Catholic moral and ethical principles in medicine.

Cardinal Pell’s address on November 20 highlighted a dinner following the annual White Mass for medical professionals at the Virginia G. Piper Diocese Chapel in downtown Phoenix.

The cardinal read extracts from volume 1 of his “Journal de la prison”, published in December 2020. Volume 2 was released in May.

In a statement on the day of his release, Cardinal Pell said he had “no ill will” towards his accuser.

Occasionally questioning reflections on his case, the cardinal’s diary offered impressions from his daily readings of the Book of Job, the Old Testament account of a righteous and respected Jew’s struggle with God to understand an avalanche of personal suffering. . In the end, God told Job face to face that although he allowed suffering, it was not the result of Job’s sins.

In an excerpt, Cardinal Pell read in Job: “If God weighs me on an honest scale, being God, he cannot fail to see my innocence”, before adding his reflection: “What (was ) exactly my prayer in this strange cathedral case. “

“The Book of Job was written to challenge the iron rule that the Jewish people believed to have prevailed in history: actions are rewarded and punished in this life,” the cardinal said. “Job’s friends believed that it was his sins that explained his troubles. However, Job returned to prosperity, and God rebuked his friends.

Cardinal Pell recalled a fellow priest who often referred to Job in conversation. “I always replied that I hoped to be like Job, because his fortune was restored in this life. “

“Job’s message was, and still is, that we should always believe even when we cannot understand. “

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