In his message, the cardinal acknowledged his incarceration, writing that “I have just spent 13 months in jail for a crime I didn’t commit, one disappointment after another. I knew God was with me, but I didn’t know what He was up to, although I realised He has left all of us free. But with every blow it was a consolation to know I could offer it to God for some good purpose like turning the mass of suffering into spiritual energy.”
“The only Son of God did not have an easy run and suffered more than his share. Jesus redeemed us and we can redeem our suffering by joining it to His and offering it to God,” Pell added.
In a reference to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, Pell noted that in times of plague and difficulty, Christians were unique in the ancient world for their commitment to nurse and care for the sick.
“Too often the irreligious want to eliminate the cause of the suffering, through abortion, euthanasia, or exclude it from sight, leaving our loved ones unvisited in nursing homes. Christians see Christ in everyone who suffers — victims, the sick, the elderly — and are obliged to help,” he wrote.
The Easter message of Sydney's current leader, Archbishop Anthony Fisher, also addressed hope and the coronavirus pandemic.
"Dare we hope in a world that is suffering? It can seem impossible, even insensitive, to talk of hope when people are sick or dying, anxious or isolated, unemployed or otherwise burdened," Fisher's message said.
There is, however, reason for hope, the archbishop wrote.
“Think of the countless acts of selfless service we’ve witnessed of late from health workers, neighbours, families, pastors. Think of the novel pastoral responses to this novel coronavirus. In times like these people of faith and ideals really shine.”
“On Easter night the new Easter candle is normally lit and carried into the Church as a symbol of Christ, our light returned and hope restored. This year there’ll be no congregation to light their own candles from it. But already people are demonstrating Easter light in their works of mercy and prayer,“ Fisher wrote.
Cardinald Pell’s release from prison this week has been controversial, and was met with protest in Australia.
Hours after Pell was exonerated, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne was vandalized. The cathedral’s door was spray-painted with a cartoon image of a devil, along with the message “ROT IN HELL, PELL.” Other doors were daubed with upside-down crosses and the words “NO JUSTICE,” “PAEDO RAPIST,” and: “The law protects the powerful.”
Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne told Australian media that while he was upset about the vandalism, he was “not entirely surprised.”
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“There remains such strong emotions around all of these matters,” Comensoli told Australian news network 3AW.
The cardinal’s Easter message included a proclamation of the Gospel: that Jesus of Nazareth died, and was resurrected bodily. “It was a return of his entire person from death, breaking the rules of health and physics, as Christians believe this young man was the only Son of God, divine, the Messiah...who redeems us, enables us to receive forgiveness and enter into a happy eternity.”
On April 7, the day he was released from prison, the cardinal told CNA that "prayer has been the great source of strength to me throughout these times, including the prayers of others, and I am incredibly grateful to all those people who have prayed for me and helped me during this really challenging time.”