To be a Christian

Today George Cardinal Pell’s requiem is celebrated in Rome, with a final commendation given by Pope Francis. Much has been written about Pell in recent days. Matteo Mazuzzi, writing for Il Foglio, remarks that he was no natural diplomat. His outspokenness could be disconcerting – indeed disconcerts still. My remembrance of him is marked by a broadcast following his release from prison in April 2020, after months of incarceration for crimes he had not committed, after a process widely dismissed as a miscarriage of justice. What struck me was Pell’s complete lack of bitterness. With robust cheerfulness he accepted what had happened as one might accept a bad-weather day. He insisted he bore no grudge against his accusers. St Silouan used to say that heartfelt prayer for enemies is the criterion of Christian faith. In that respect Cardinal Pell has left a luminous testimony; in that light everything else he did and said must be read. In his last homily, a week ago, he urged his hearers to work for the Church’s unity, founded on charity in truth. That, too, is a lesson to remember.