Christian faith helped jailed cardinal survive prison

Cardinal George Pell says his Christian faith helped him survive prison, and offered advice on how to overcome grief and stressful situations.

Pell spoke to an online silent retreat hosted by the Australian Catholic Students’ Association about suffering and the tools one can use to remain steadfast in faith through hard times.

Pell says his 13 months in prison were “difficult and unpleasant,” but not the worst possible form of suffering. In fact, his imprisonment reinforced in him the truth of Christian view of redemptive suffering.

“I’m still teaching the same Christian message and I’m here simply to say that it works. Not in the sense that I was acquitted, but that this Christian teaching helped me to survive.”

Two years ago Pell was convicted of multiple counts of sexual abuse.

On April 7 this year Australia’s High Court overturned his six-year prison sentence. It ruled Pell should not have been found guilty of the charge and that the prosecution had not proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Before the silent retreat started, Pell offered five suggestions for people experiencing emotional hardship, including grief, loss, and personal suffering.

He suggested exercise, avoiding large amounts of alcohol, eating well and regularly, sleeping a certain number of hours a night and waking up at the same time each day.

Following these points and ensuring regular exercise helped him when he was in prison, Pell told the students. He explained the special importance for young people to take this advice sooner rather than later.

By creating these “good habits of mind and habits of practice,” a person will be led in the right direction during inevitable, intense times of suffering, he said.

“Whereas, if you’ve been sloppy and ill-disciplined and selfish all your life, it makes it so much harder to rise to the challenge,” he said.

This Easter Pell shared information about of his incarceration and how his Christian faith helped him bear it.

“I have just spent 13 months in jail for a crime I didn’t commit, one disappointment after another. I knew God was with me, but I didn’t know what He was up to, although I realised He has left all of us free.”

“But with every blow it was a consolation to know I could offer it to God for some good purpose like turning the mass of suffering into spiritual energy.”

“The only Son of God did not have an easy run and suffered more than his share. Jesus redeemed us and we can redeem our suffering by joining it to His and offering it to God.”


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