Wanda Skowronska, Quadrant, 14 August
It has been four months since Cardinal George Pell was freed from Victoria’s Barwon Prison on April 7, after the High Court unanimously overturned his convictions. During his 400 days in jail many people, myself among them, sent the Cardinal letters and cards of support, hoping and praying he would be soon released. Now, a few months later, I have had the privilege of sitting for over an hour with the Cardinal who had graciously agreed to a meeting.
Before me was someone who had suffered greatly, yet was relaxed, serene, courteous and witty. While we were conversing, I could not help sensing his inner peace, from deep wells of the soul. He clearly has an ongoing lively interest in books which prison did nothing to abate. Our discussion was mainly about his dear friend Father Paul Stenhouse (right), who died on November 19, 2019, and of whom many tributes have been written.
Cardinal Pell noted the “intellectual qualities” and “very fine Catholic writing” of Fr Stenhouse, saying he was “a deeply faithful priest.” He had heard of the priest-scholar before he met him in the 1990s in Melbourne and from there came a meeting of minds in which many situations in the church and the world were discussed. Fr Stenhouse, being the editor of Annals, the longest-running journal in Australian history, put his knowledge of history and language into this doughty publication from the 1960s. There was much to discuss, the Cardinal chuckling at how his older friend insisted on driving him around Sydney, “even when he was in his 80s!” Asked his opinion of Fr Stenhouse’s driving, the Cardinal replied calmly that “he did not terrify me.” He recalled how they would visit friends, go to restaurants and visited Camden, where Fr Stenhouse grew up. Among other subjects, they discussed the situation in the church, how to help those suffering from religious persecution, and their high regard for Saint John Paul II.