Pell was convicted on Dec. 11, 2018, on five charges of sexual abuse while he served as archbishop of Melbourne in the late 1990s. After serving 404 days in solitary confinement, Australia’s high court unanimously overturned the convictions, based on reasonable doubt of the appellate proceedings, in April 2020.
“He was relentlessly pursued by a bloodthirsty mob and made himself a victim of justice by anti-Catholic agitators in the media and the police apparatus,” Müller remarked regarding the vilification of the late cardinal in mainstream media.
Auxiliary Bishop Richard Umbers of the Archdiocese of Sydney spoke with EWTN after the Mass, noting that the evening was an opportunity to mark “the anniversary of a man who was a lion in the Church. I think it’s giving due recognition to someone who’s been very important in the life of Australia, if not in fact the whole world.”
While recognizing that Pell was a “lightning rod for the Church,” Umbers explained that he was a man “of great strength and tremendous courage.”
Pell’s legacy is not just limited to his theological acumen or reforms of the Vatican’s handling of financial affairs, but it is most tangibly seen in the revitalization of the Church in Sydney.
“I think the impact of Cardinal Pell is very visible in Sydney,” Umbers said. “He was a big man with great vision, and the last 20 years in the Archdiocese of Sydney have seen real growth and leadership amongst a number of young Catholics.”
“You find an environment there which is quite extraordinary. A lot of life, especially in the area of university chaplaincy. He [Pell] invested heavily in that area and took great interest in the next generation of leaders,” Umbers added.
According to Father Hamilton, one of the hallmarks of Pell’s legacy will be his example of strength and unity for the Church as it is going through a period marked by division and is mired in crises.
“We are one Catholic Church, we have one faith, we have one pope, we’re one people. If we stand together, we’re strong. If we’re divided, we’re weak, and I think that his [Pell’s] witness to us and his legacy to the Church is that it is one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church that he was proud to serve and that he was proud, in a very humble way, to be a confessor of. I think that that leaves us an astonishing and shining example,” he said.
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