Appeal for donations to publish Cardinal Pell's prison diary


Sydney (AFP)

A 1,000-page journal written by Australian Cardinal George Pell during his time behind bars is set to be released by a US-based Catholic publisher that is appealing for donations to help fund the project.

Pell, a former Vatican treasurer, spent more than a year in prison on child sex abuse charges before he was acquitted and freed by Australia's High Court in April.

Ignatius Press said it will now publish the "extraordinary" diary, which was written in solitary confinement, and appealed to supporters to help fund an advance to Pell -- who would use it to cover outstanding legal fees.

In a letter to subscribers posted on the company's website, editor Father Joseph Fessio said he had read the first half of the tome and predicted it was "going to be a spiritual classic".

"The entire journal is about 1,000 pages, so we will print it in three or four volumes," he said.

"With your help, we can proceed with this project and offer Cardinal Pell appropriate advances on these volumes, which he can then use to remove much of the worry he now has about his legal debts."

Fessio said his "good friend" Pell was still dealing with the "ongoing challenge of meeting the many legal expenses which were necessary to right the terrible injustice done to him".

"This is not just about Cardinal Pell. His victory was not just a victory for one man. It was a victory for the Church," Fessio added.

"And not just the Church in Australia. It revealed to all the world just how far the Church’s enemies will go and how deceitful they will be to discredit her."

Pell, 79, was convicted in December 2018 of sexually abusing two choirboys in the 1990s when he was the archbishop of Melbourne.

He strenuously denied the charges and the High Court later overturned his conviction after hearing his second appeal.

However, Pell is still facing a civil suit brought by the father of one choirboy after the latter died in 2014.

A report released in May after a top-level Australian inquiry said Pell was aware of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in Australia as far back as the 1970s and failed to seek the removal of accused priests.

Pell has said he was "surprised" by the inquiry's findings, which he said were "not supported by evidence".