Cardinal Pell says he “never really approved” Benedict XVI’s decision to resign
Rome – Australian Cardinal George Pell said on September 23 that he “never really approved” Pope Benedict XVI’s shocking 2013 decision to resign from the papacy.
Pell, who served as Prefect of the Vatican Economic Secretariat from 2014 to 2019 and a member of Pope Francis’ Advisory Council of Cardinals from 2013 to 2018, said that among recent popes – John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis – he was closest to Benoît.
Pell described John Paul II as “one of the greatest popes in history, of course”, and praised Benedict’s “stupendous intelligence”, adding that “I knew him better than anyone else. the other two popes ”.
The cardinal’s words came during a webinar within the framework of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross’ “The church up close“Virtual series aimed at journalists around the world to help them better understand the dynamics of the Vatican.
Pell was Archbishop of Melbourne, Australia, from 1996 to 2001, then ruled the Archdiocese of Sydney from 2001 until Francis put him in charge of overseeing Vatican financial reforms in 2014.
Although he worked closely with Francis for five years, Pell was often seen as at odds with key initiatives of that papacy, including the Pope’s more welcoming approach to divorced and remarried couples and LGBTQ Catholics. , and its priority in the fight against climate change.
During the interview, Pell said Francis had the “great gift of empathy and sympathy.”
When asked to respond to why some conservative Catholics are hostile to Francis, the cardinal said he believed some “were wondering exactly what was being taught” at the moment, although he was not. did not develop specific questions.
“Pope Francis has a great gift, as Jesus did, of reaching out to those on the periphery and to sinners,” Pell said, “and it can and has confused people.”
“But we are where we are,” added the cardinal. “The papacy is something, I believe, willed by Christ, and we must respect office, revere man, and obey papal instructions.”
Known for his vigorous defense of traditional Catholic teachings and an often brash style, Pell was never shy with his words or opinions.
When asked if he was “still a climate change denier,” Pell said he had “never denied climate change” and believed in it “very strongly”, but that he was ambivalent about what humans can do to prevent it. .
Pell went on to offer a powerful litany of historical examples of climate change, saying he was “well aware” that in the Middle Ages the Rhine had dried up twice and that it was warmer then. of Christ than today.
“What I’m against,” he said, “are inflated ideas that we can do a lot to alleviate, to change these huge natural patterns.”
“No computer program predicting the future of climate change has been precise. None of them,” added the cardinal, believing that there is a “great distance between the evidence and the policy recommendations”.
“Pagans like to be afraid of something,” he added.
During the nearly 80-minute interview, the cardinal returned to his historic imprisonment in Australia for sexual abuse before being unanimously cleared by the country’s high court.
Since returning to Rome in September 2020, the besieged cardinal has published his memoirs in the prison newspaper and has given a series of media interviews reflecting his legal battles, the finances of the Vatican and the future of the Catholic Church. .
When asked in his last interview what reading recommendations he would offer to those looking to better understand the church, Pell ticked off a number of prominent Conservative writers.
Among those he named were New York Times columnist Ross Douthat and Pope John Paul II biographer George Weigel, before offering limited endorsement from Rod Dreher The Benoît option, which advocates that Christians withdraw from the mainstream and focus on a revival of the Christian counterculture.
“The Benedict option is not my option,” Pell said. “I’m not sympathetic to just a small, small, elite church.”
He added, “I would like to keep as many semi-religious slobs like me in the stream.”