SANTA PAULA, Calif.-His Eminence George Cardinal Pell presided over commencement ceremonies at Thomas Aquinas College on Saturday, May 10, 2008. The Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, Cardinal Pell served as principal celebrant and homilist of the Baccalaureate Mass, delivered the commencement address, and awarded diplomas to 80 graduates from 22 states and five countries. This was the college's largest graduating class in its 37-year history.
Cardinal Pell remarked during his commencement address that "Students at Thomas Aquinas College have an unusual advantage from their direct engagement for four years with the profound thinkers who have shaped our Western civilization. They have followed the traditional Socratic method of questioning and dialogue, continued their search for meaning and truth in a learning institution which is committed to the Catholic faith. Faith and reason are offered for their acceptance or rejection as they rigorously examine the intellectual claims of these great authors, religious or otherwise. I repeat that they have been unusually blessed and advantaged, because they have an ideal base for any professional course they might now choose to pursue."
During the commencement exercises, by resolution of the Board of Governors, Cardinal Pell was awarded the Saint Thomas Aquinas Medallion, the college's highest honor, established by its Board of Governors in 1975. The resolution was given in recognition that "His Eminence George Cardinal Pell has shown an exemplary loyalty and devotion to the Holy Father and the magisterium of the Church and has worked tirelessly to proclaim, support, and defend the teachings of the Church, and to advance the mission of Christ on earth."
A native of Australia, Cardinal Pell was a member of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1990 to 2000, and he has been Chairman of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Commission for Doctrine and Morals since 2001. He has also served on the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Congregation for Divine Worship, the Congregation for Education, and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Moreover, since 2002, Cardinal Pell has been president of the Vox Clara Committee, which advises the Congregation for Divine Worship on English translations of liturgical texts. This summer, he will host Pope Benedict XVI in Sydney for World Youth Day, scheduled for July 15-20. The event will attract more than 200,000 young people from around the world.
Said President Tom Dillon, "We were honored and delighted to welcome His Eminence Cardinal Pell to our campus for this joyful occasion. Our graduating seniors, their families, and all our guests were blessed by his priestly presence and edified by the words of wisdom he shared with us. We are most grateful to Cardinal Pell for making the long journey to our campus, especially as he prepares to welcome the Holy Father to his own archdiocese only weeks from now for World Youth Day."