Cardinal George Pell: The Encourager – Catholic World Report

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

I know of few, if any, public figures who have displayed the moral courage George Pell displayed for decades as he defended and promoted the truth of Catholic faith.

Cardinal George Pell is pictured during the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican in this Oct. 16, 2014, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

On Tuesday, January 3, when Cardinal George Pell and I went to pay our respects to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, lying in state in St. Peter’s, I couldn’t help but notice the reverence with which the basilica’s little people, the Sanpietrini, greeted the tall Australian who walked slowly with a cane. These ushers and guards are used to ecclesiastical eminence, but there was something different about their evident respect and affection for Cardinal Pell. Here was a man who had suffered greatly for the Church and the truth. Here was a “white martyr.” Attention should be paid. And it was.

We prayed for 15 minutes at the bier before the high altar on which the Pope Emeritus rested, and later at the tomb of Saint John Paul II, before leaving the basilica by a back door, where the cardinal’s car was waiting for us. I only became aware of how difficult walking was for my friend of 55 years when he asked to lean on my arm as we descended a slight decline leading to the door. Outside, we saw Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, longtime secretary to the deceased Pope Emeritus, who was coming into St. Peter’s with a small group. We exchanged condolences, during which the archbishop told the cardinal that the last book Pope Benedict had read was the first volume of Pell’s Prison Journal (to which I had the honor of contributing a foreword).

The previous evening, Cardinal Pell and I had enjoyed dinner with some 50 Milwaukee province seminarians at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, hosted by its archpriest (and Milwaukee native), Cardinal James Harvey. They were an impressive group of men and hung on every word the cardinal, in cracking good form, said in his brief after-dinner remarks. Pell gently but firmly stressed the importance of courage in the priesthood: the courage to evangelize, the courage to face cultural headwinds, the courage to put one’s faith totally in the Lord.

And in the hours immediately after his shocking, unexpected death on January 10, it came to me, through the mental and spiritual fog of a deep grief, that, in those brief comments, George Pell had inadvertently but quite authentically written his own epitaph: he was a courageous man who “en-couraged” others — who gave others courage, or, perhaps better, drew out of others the courage they did not know lay within them.

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Cardinal George Pell: The Encourager – Catholic World Report

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