Cardinal George Pell, who was acquitted this year after becoming the highest-ranking Catholic cleric ever to be convicted of sexual abuse, spoke this week about how he maintained hope during his 400 days in prison.

“The virtue of Christian hope is different than Christian optimism. No matter what your circumstances are in this life, eventually all will be well. A good God is in charge, even though terrible things happen,” Pell, 79, said in an interview aired Aug. 16.

Pell was initially convicted in Australia in 2018 of multiple counts of sexual abuse. On April 7, 2020, Australia’s High Court overturned his six-year prison sentence. The High Court ruled that he should not have been found guilty of the charges and that the prosecution had not proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Pell spent 13 months in solitary confinement, during which time he was not permitted to celebrate Mass.

The cardinal still faces a canonical investigation at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, though after his conviction was overturned, several canonical experts said it was unlikely he would actually face a Church trial.

Pell said despite the discomfort and humiliation of being in prison, he was often surprised by the decency and professionalism of the majority of the prison officers, who conversed with him and other men in solitary confinement.

Pell’s remarks were live-streamed as part of the 10th annual Napa Institute conference, held virtually this year Aug. 14-15.

“I knew intellectually, forensically, that my case was enormously strong,” he said, but added he was not “optimistic” in a human sense. His faith, and daily prayer, helped to keep him from despair and bitterness, he said.

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