His Eminence Cardinal George Pell to Deliver 2021 Commencement Address

13 January 2021

Ave Maria University President Christopher P. Ice is pleased to announce His Eminence Cardinal George Pell will deliver the Commencement address to Ave Maria University class of 2021. Pell will be one of the highest ranking Catholic Church officials to address Ave Maria University graduates and will be presented an honorary degree at the ceremony on Saturday, May 8, in Ave Maria, Florida.

Pell served as an Ecclesial Advisor to Ave Maria University upon its founding in 2003.

According to Ice, when the invitation was extended, Pell expressed excitement and had many questions about the state of the University and overall development of the town. “Cardinal Pell is looking forward to seeing the progress of the university and the town upon his return,” said Ice.  

Pell was ordained a priest in 1966, a bishop in 1987, and was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2003. In 2014, Pope Francis appointed Pell Prefect of the newly-created Secretariat for the Economy at the Vatican. In 2018, Pell was forced to leave Rome to face allegations he had abused two young boys during his time in Melbourne, Australia, a charge Pell vehemently denied. “The allegations involve vile and disgusting conduct contrary to everything I hold dear and contrary to the explicit teachings of the Church which I have spent my life representing,” said Pell.

Despite his contention, Pell was wrongfully convicted of the charges, led off in handcuffs and shackles to begin serving a six year prison sentence. After serving 13 months in jail, eight of which were spent in solitary confinement, the Australian High Court unanimously overturned his conviction (7-0), and righted this previous injustice.

While imprisoned, Pell kept a journal telling of his struggles, faith, and perseverance. According to the National Catholic Register’s Senior Editor, Joan Frawley Desmond,

In the most moving passages of the first volume of his journal, the cardinal’s spirits are buoyed by the countless letters of support and instruction he receives from well-wishers across the globe, many of them Catholics who believe he is being persecuted for his faith.

“These letters have changed my time in jail, my daily program, my thinking and praying, my peace of mind,” Pell writes.

During daily prayer and reading, Pell also finds inspiration in the example of the saints, especially the martyrdom of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, and believes he has been targeted because of his faith and prominence as a Catholic leader. “I am caught in the struggle between good and evil,” Pell concludes at one point.   

“Cardinal Pell has proven to be a stalwart of the Catholic faith and sets a great example of how to suffer with dignity,” said Ice.

Commencement will occur on the Gyrene Field at 9:00 a.m. (Saturday, May 8). Seating is limited.