The St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology — founded by Scott and Kimberly Hahn and Mike Aquilina — is celebrating its 20th anniversary on Thursday in Orlando, Florida, by honoring Cardinal George Pell.
Cardinal Pell will join the gala virtually, offering a reflection on Philippians, inspired by his wrongful conviction and imprisonment.
The St. Paul Center has had immense influence in promoting its mission of “Reading the Bible from the Heart of the Church,” leading a genuine revival in biblical preaching and knowledge at the parish level.
Cardinal Pell’s honor comes as the third volume of his prison diary is published. Prison Journal: The High Court Frees an Innocent Man is newly-released by Ignatius Press. The honor from the St. Paul Center is a suitable occasion to consider Cardinal Pell as a biblical commentator. He is not known principally as such, but the publication of his Prison Journal provides us with many biblical reflections.
The cardinal’s journal details the progress of his case and describes his life in solitary confinement, but also includes the news about Aussie rules football, books he is reading — War and Peace was one — visits from friends, snippets from the thousands of letters he received, comments on the preaching of televangelists — including a surprisingly favorable assessment of Joel Osteen — and the television programs he watched.
There are near-constant references to the weather, indicating the extent to which Cardinal Pell’s world had shrunk. Confined to his cell in solitary confinement for the vast majority of the day, his exercise periods in the yard were the only chance to stretch his legs and get a change of place. Hence the weather mattered a great deal; inclement weather could mean an entire day in his cell.
There is the kind of reminiscing that journal-writing prompts when time is at hand, like his “gardening digression” on his planting of jacaranda trees at Cathedral House in Sydney.
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