For Cardinal George Pell, being falsely imprisoned and suffering great trials for the past three years taught him that Jesus’ teaching “on many things is absolutely true” and that “the key to life is found in Christ’s words.”
Speaking to the Register Dec. 1 in his first lengthy interview with a Catholic publication since his acquittal and release from prison, the former prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy said the Catholic faith “helped keep me going.”
The Australian cardinal was speaking ahead of the release of the first volume of his book Prison Journal, to be published by Ignatius Press in paperback on Dec. 16. The volume covers the period from Feb. 27, 2019, when he was remanded in custody, to July 13, 2019, a month before Victoria’s supreme court upheld his conviction on appeal.
Cardinal Pell left the Secretariat for the Economy in 2017 to face questionable charges in Australia of sexual molestation of two choirboys in the sacristy of the Melbourne cathedral in 1996. After a mistrial in 2018, a second trial unanimously convicted him, and he was sentenced to six years in prison. He ended up being incarcerated for 404 days until Australia’s High Court unanimously acquitted and released him on April 7 this year.
In his interview with the Register, Cardinal Pell discusses a number of passages from his journal, including how he coped with the vicissitudes of the legal process, his attitude towards his accuser, whom he wholeheartedly forgives, and how he drew inspiration from thousands of letters of support and the example of great saints such as St. Thomas More.
“I don’t think I ever despaired,” he says. “Certainly you go up and down.”
The Register spoke with the cardinal in his Vatican apartment.
Your Eminence, in your journal you give a vivid sense of what it was like for you to be found falsely guilty and imprisoned, but what do you hope publishing the journal will achieve?
That’s a good question. Well, first of all, I’m hoping it’ll help people understand Christianity a bit better, to help Christians who might be in a situation that’s very difficult. I mean, there are many motives for writing it, not the least of which is therapy. There are other motives for getting it published, which I wouldn’t have done if nobody was interested. Also, I suppose to try to see that this doesn’t happen again in Australia too quickly to somebody who’s from a very unpopular group, espouses politically incorrect views and is swept away by the tides of hostile opinion.
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