SYDNEY (ChurchMilitant.com) - In a newly-released Easter letter, a falsely-imprisoned Australian bishop is saying Christians suffer better than atheists.
Cardinal George Pell wrote in the Weekend Australian, "Christians can cope with suffering better than the atheists can explain the beauty and happiness of life."
After spending 405 days in prison, Pell was released April 6 when Australia's High Court unanimously overturned his December 2018 conviction for sex abuse.
"I knew God was with me, but I didn't know what He was up to, although I realized He has left all of us free," Pell said, "But with every blow it was a consolation to know I could offer it to God for some good purpose like turning the mass of suffering into spiritual energy."
Pell said in his editorial "Easter provides the Christian answer to suffering and living," noting that "nearly 2,000 years ago a young Jew was crucified on a hilltop in Jerusalem one Friday afternoon, despised and rejected."
He continued, "To the dismay of many, this was a Messiah, who was not a great monarch like David or Solomon, but Isaiah's suffering servant, who redeems us, enables us to receive forgiveness and enter into a happy eternity," adding that Our Lord "did not have an easy run and suffered more than his share," and that "Jesus redeemed us and we can redeem our suffering by joining it to His and offering it to God," noting it's "part of the Easter message of the Risen Christ."
Pell contrasted the difference in the approach to suffering "between God-fearers and secularists today," declaring "Too often the irreligious want to eliminate the cause of the suffering, through abortion, euthanasia or exclude it from sight, leaving our loved ones unvisited in nursing homes."
Since Pell's conviction by a jury in 2018 and his subsequent failed appeals, authorities did not allow him to say Mass and even disallowed him from attending his final appeal in March.
He maintained his innocence throughout the process and now must endure a Vatican investigation despite being cleared by a 7–0 vote by Australian judges. In seeming support of Pell, however, Pope Francis tweeted on April 7:
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.
The high court's decision was greeted with relief by some Catholics and outrage by others.
On April 8 vandals in Melbourne defaced the doors of the cathedral with an image of a devil with the words "Rot in hell, Pell." Upside down crosses and the words "No justice," "Paedo rapist" and "The law protects the powerful" were written on other doors at the cathedral.
In 2014 Pell engaged in a high-profile debate with noted atheist Richard Dawkins where they discussed suffering.
Dawkins attributed suffering to "an almost inevitable consequence of Darwinian natural selection."
In response to the question, "How can there be a compassionate God who is all-powerful and has created us and yet we suffer. Why create such a world in the first place?"
Pell answered that he struggled with suffering, saying "I think that is probably the hardest question for us to answer," adding "If I get a chance to ask a question when I die, I think I will ask the good God why is there so much suffering. That's a problem for us."
In a statement issued after the Australian court's final decision, Pell commented "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."