Card. George Pell’s ‘Prison Journal’ hits bookstores
by Bernardo Cervellera

The Italian edition for Cantagalli has been out a few weeks ago. It is the autobiographical chronicle of his 13 months in prison, after being sentenced to six years for sexual abuse. The "highest ranking Vatican personality to be convicted of paedophilia" was acquitted on appeal on April 7, 2020. The book narrates day-to-day life in prison, "under special surveillance", treated "like a terrorist", physical needs, health care needs, the progress of the trial, concern for the Church in the world and prayer.

Rome (AsiaNews) - "When, a few months ago, I received the invitation to publish the Italian edition of the prison journal written by His Eminence Cardinal Pell, I accepted with great enthusiasm mainly for one reason: The Cardinal's Diary did not it is only a tale, an account of the days of captivity of a brave and honest man. What fascinated me most is his clear, sincere testimony of faith. A lived, concrete faith ".

These are the words with which David Cantagalli, the publisher of the publishing house of the same name, introduces the volume that he has decided to publish, the first tome of George Pell's "Prison Journal". The 448 pages of the book tell day by day the autobiographical chronicle, thoughts, fears, ups and downs of physical health, prayers and the spiritual "health" of man who - as many news agencies termed him - was the "highest ranking Vatican personality to be convicted of paedophilia" in a trial that on appeal (April 7, 2020) melted like snow in the sun, sanctioning the innocence of the former archbishop of Melbourne, Sydney and former prefect of Vatican Secretariat for the Economy.

But the trial celebrated on March 13, 2019 had sentenced the cardinal to 6 years in prison for a fact that was "not committed", as he himself says in the diary and as many witnesses have said. The charge was that he had sexually abused two altar boys at the end of Sunday mass in Melbourne's cathedral. After years of accusations, debates and hearings, which began in 2017, in 2019 only one of the accusers remained, an alleged victim: the other had retracted before he died.

Several observers pointed out that the problems for Card. Pell began shortly after his first, decisive steps as prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy. Some suspect that the accusations were a way to remove and the project to make the Vatican economy less subject to manipulation from the outside and illicit trafficking.

But there is also a reason that can be read between the lines in cardinal’s diary: the fury towards him was a way to vent the anger on the part of a world that had certainly had painful personal experiences with religious accused of child abuse, but above all that wanted to do without the Church and its influence on society: something that in the introduction of the book, the writer George Wiegel defines "a slow political murder perpetrated through the courts".

The daily "Journal" allows us to glimpse into and participate in the questions of Card. Pell, in his situation as a "special " and dangerous prisoner "like a terrorist", in his every day needs, from the ban on celebrating mass to the lack of a book, a breviary, a razor ... And it is surprising in the peace his words exude in his lack of desire for revenge, his prayer for the judges, his accusers, the prosecutor, but above all for the Church and its mission in the world.

This "Journal" is an excellent reading and meditation: it recalls the book of Job, in which the innocent victim unjustly argues with God, or the memoirs of the Vietnamese Cardinal Francesco Saverio Van Thuan, who spent 8 years in solitary confinement in the regime prisons. The same author mentions them in his pages. At the end of each day, Card. Pell concludes his chronicle with a prayer to Christ, entrusting him with people, situations in the world, friends, relatives, and asking for the strength of witness to the truth.

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