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Cardinal Pell speaks at the 2008 Commencement ExercisesPlease pray for the repose of the soul of His Eminence George Cardinal Pell, prefect emeritus of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy and a generous friend of Thomas Aquinas College, who died on Tuesday.

In 2008, Cardinal Pell, then the Archbishop of Sydney, traveled some 7,500 miles to serve as the speaker at the College’s Commencement exercises in Santa Paula, California. “A number of you have said that I have come quite a distance,” His Eminence said in his Commencement Address. “I have come because for years I have known about Thomas Aquinas College, and I value deeply the work that is being done here. My visit is a sign of my own personal support for the staff, the students, for all the families, the benefactors, all those who, combined, continue this marvelous work.”

In recognition of the Cardinal’s life of faithful service to the Church, the College awarded him with its highest honor, the Saint Thomas Aquinas Medallion. In 2016 he would return the favor by welcoming College officials during their visit to Rome.

Yet only one year later, Cardinal Pell’s life would take a dark turn, when false accusations of vile misconduct — uncritically embraced by anti-Catholic elements in Australia’s government and media — resulted in his imprisonment. His Eminence bore his suffering graciously, however, and after spending 404 days in solitary confinement, he received unanimous exoneration from his country’s highest court in 2019.

“Cardinal Pell’s equanimity throughout his trials was, perhaps, the greatest testament to the peace that he found in Christ, a peace he offered to all, including to our graduates at Commencement 2008,” says Thomas Aquinas College President Paul J. O’Reilly. “In this way, he graciously embodied Our Lord’s words, ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ May he rest in peace.”

Cardinal Pell with TAC president Dr. Thomas E. Dillon and his wife, Terri, in 2008
Cardinal Pell with late TAC president Dr. Thomas E. Dillon and his wife, Terri, in 2008