Pope Francis prays for the unjustly condemned after Pell conviction overturned

Pope Francis during Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta April 6, 2020. Credit: Vatican Media.

Pope Francis prayed at Mass this morning for all those who have been persecuted by an unjust sentence, offering the prayer hours after Australia’s High Court overturned a child sex abuse conviction against Cardinal George Pell, releasing him from prison.

The pope did not mention Pell by name at the April 7 Mass in the chapel of his Vatican residence, the Casa Santa Marta, noting at the beginning the persecution Jesus suffered at the hands of the doctors of the law, who acted against him with aggressive persistence despite his innocence.

“I would like to pray today for all the people who suffer an unjust sentence because of aggressive persistence [against them],” Pope Francis said.

In his homily, the pope spoke about each person’s election by God, from before his or her birth, to be a servant and child of God.

“The Lord has chosen us from the womb,” he said, explaining that, though each of us has sinned and will sin again, the attitude of a servant of God is to repent and ask for forgiveness.

The pope said: “there are, in life, falls: each of us is a sinner and can fall and have fallen,” and noted that only Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary are completely without sin.

“But what matters,” he continued, “is the attitude before the God who elected me, who anointed me as a servant; it is the attitude of a sinner who is capable of asking for forgiveness.”

He pointed to St. Peter’s repentance after he denied Christ three times, explaining that, by contrast, those who do not see and repent of their sins “open the heart to Satan.”

“This is what happened to Judas,” he said.

The pope emphasized that every person has been called to be a servant, just as the prophet Isaiah prophesied about Jesus: “For now the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb (Isaiah 49:5).”

“None of us fell into the world by chance, by accident,” he said. “I was born with the destiny of being a son of God, of being a servant of God, with the task of serving, constructing, building.”

He underlined that Jesus served until death, which is an example of the way each of us is also called to serve.

“To serve is not to demand for each of us some benefit other than serving. It is glory, to serve; and the glory of Christ is to serve until he annihilates himself, until death, death on the Cross.”

According to Pope Francis, to move away from the vocation to serve is to move away “from the love of God.”

He urged Catholics to “think today of Jesus, the servant, faithful in service” and to remember the vocation and duty to serve.

“We ask for the grace to persevere in service,” he said. “Sometimes with slips, falls, but with the grace at least to cry [for our sins] like Peter cried.”