“That decision was taken by others, and I’d hope they wouldn’t do it again.”
Another person familiar with the letter’s distribution told CNA that the cardinal was intent on abiding by the terms of his imprisonment and, despite his incarceration, is still engaged with wider events in the Church.
“I think the cardinal was very clear in his letter that he has immense concern for those who are praying for him, but also for the whole Church; he always has. He’s still a bishop and a cardinal after all.”
The text of the letter and images of the original were separately shared with CNA and reported Aug. 9. The prison rule specifically relates to social media use by or on the cardinal’s behalf, and does not include reporting on the contents of the letter by media outlets.
Sky News Australia said the letter "compares the cardinal's suffering to that of Jesus Christ."
In fact, Pell wrote that "The knowledge that my small suffering can be used for good purposes through being joined to Jesus’ suffering gives me purpose and direction."
The incident comes as Pell’s legal team prepare to receive a decision from a Court of Appeal on Pell’s appeal of his conviction on five counts of child sexual abuse in December last year.
Sources close to Pell told CNA that his legal team is preparing for a decision as early as this week and that, while they are hopeful of a favorable outcome, “every possibility is being considered, nothing is being taken as read.”
Following his conviction in the County Court of Victoria, Pell was sentenced in March to six years in prison, of which he must serve at least three years and eight months. Pell has remained in prison since that time.
Across two days of hearings on June 5-6, judges from the Supreme Court of Victoria heard Pell’s appeal against the jury’s decision on three separate grounds. Local media coverage broadly reported that the argumentation presented in court appeared to favor Pell.
On day two of the hearings, court president Justice Chris Maxwell called the circumstances of Pell’s alleged crimes “wildly improbable.”
This first ground of appeal is that the unanimous decision of the jury could not have risen to the level of “beyond reasonable doubt” because of the unchallenged exculpatory evidence of 20 witnesses during the trial.
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The second ground concerns the decision of the trial judge, Peter Kidd, to exclude a video presentation by defense lawyers which would, they maintain, have illustrated to the jury the implausibility of the victim’s narrative.
The third ground is a procedural appeal concerning Pell’s arraignment, which was not carried out in front of any jury members, a fact the defense argues was a “fundamental irregularity.”
On Aug. 9, The Australian reported that appellate judges had been considering last minute questions on that issue, focused on whether the use of a video link was sufficient to substitute for members of the jury being present at the time when Pell would have been expected to enter a plea.
If the court were to accept the appeal on procedural grounds, a retrial would likely be ordered and the prosecution of Pell would have to start from the beginning.
Many of Pell’s supporters say they hope the judges will overturn the jury’s verdict entirely, ruling that no decision of guilt beyond reasonable doubt was possible in the light of the evidence, and setting the cardinal free.
Should the court reject all three grounds and allow the conviction to stand, Pell’s legal team has confirmed that he will not seek to appeal the length of his prison sentence.