Pointed message to freed Pell
George Pell has walked free from prison after Australia's highest court quashed his child sex abuse convictions.
His new-found freedom divided the world, with some celebrating the cardinal's release and others left heartbroken and angry for victims of institutional abuse.
Late yesterday, a woman appeared to send the 78-year-old cardinal a message, tying a children's tricycle to the front gate of Carmelite Monastery in the Melbourne suburb of Kew.
Pell spent the night in the monastery after his release from Barwon Prison.
The cardinal had spent more than 400 days in the prison after a jury found him guilty of sexually abusing two teenage choir boys in the late 1990s.
Those convictions were quashed by the High Court of Australia yesterday with the court ordering his immediate release.
But the woman wasn't the only one sending Pell a message with Pope Francis sending out a tweet most have taken as him throwing his support behind his former treasurer.
In these days of #Lent, we've been witnessing the persecution that Jesus underwent and how He was judged ferociously, even though He was innocent. Let us #PrayTogether today for all those persons who suffer due to an unjust sentence because of someone had it in for them.— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) April 7, 2020
Just hours after Pell's convictions were quashed, Pope Francis offered his morning mass for all those who suffer from unjust sentences, comparing it to the persecution of Jesus.
"I would like to pray today for all those people who suffer unjust sentences resulting from intransigence," Francis said, speaking before the start of the mass.
Francis did not mention Pell, the cardinal who was put in charge of Vatican finances by Francis in 2014, by name.
But Francis compared the suffering of those inflicted with unjust sentences today to the persecution of Jesus by Jewish community elders, with "obstinacy and rage even though he was innocent".
The Pope chooses an intention for mass each day before leading the service in his residence.
In recent weeks, the pope's intentions for nearly all of his daily masses have been related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Pell's surviving victim also released a statement overnight, saying he respected the High Court's decision.
The other boy who alleged he was abused by Pell died from a drug overdose in 2014.
"I respect the decision of the High Court. I respect the outcome," the witness said in a statement via his lawyer, Vivian Waller, yesterday.
"I understand their view that there was not enough evidence to satisfy the court beyond all reasonable doubt that the offending occurred," he said, adding he understood why there was a heavy burden of proof in child sexual abuse matters.
"But the price we pay for weighting the system in favour of the accused is that many sexual offences against children go unpunished.
"I would hate to think that one outcome of this case is that people are discouraged from reporting to the police."
Pell had remained a cardinal but lost his treasurer role in the run-up to becoming the highest-ranked Catholic official worldwide to be jailed for child sex offences.
The court's ruling quashed convictions that Cardinal George Pell sexually assaulted the two choir boys in the 1990s.
He was serving a six-year sentence on one charge of sexual penetration of a child under 16 and four charges of an indecent act with a child under 16, which the plaintiff said took place when Pell was archbishop of the city of Melbourne.
The seven judges of the High Court agreed unanimously the jury in the cardinal's trial "ought to have entertained a doubt" about his guilt, ordering his conviction be quashed.
Pell also released a statement yesterday.
"I hold no ill will toward my accuser, I do not want my acquittal to add to the hurt and bitterness so many feel; there is certainly hurt and bitterness enough," Pell said in a statement shortly before he was driven away from the maximum security prison.
The Vatican welcomed the Australian court's ruling, praising Pell for having "waited for the truth to be ascertained".
A statement said the Vatican had always had confidence in Australian judicial authorities and reaffirmed the Holy See's "commitment to preventing and pursuing all cases of abuse against minors".
It noted that Pell had always maintained his innocence.
- with wires
Originally published as Pointed message to freed Pell