Numerous court cases prosecuting clerical sex abusers in the Ballarat diocese and other civil cases have thrown the Catholic Church back into the spotlight.
The Courier sat down with the Catholic Bishop of Ballarat, Paul Bird, for a wide-ranging interview last week that included questions about the "adversarial" position the church appears to be taking in some of these cases.
While the focus was on his recent visit to The Vatican, and what was discussed with Pope Francis, Bishop Bird also spoke about the courts, and the Church's approach to dealing with claims from sexual abuse survivors.
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW BELOW
Q - We are talking about this new openness and accessibility, accountability in some ways - you've come back ( from Rome) reinvigorated with this positive attitude - but is that sort of a contradiction to the very aggressive defence that the church sometimes finds itself - defending itself in ways that seem quite harsh to outsiders, and to survivors that have been through traumatic experiences who say something needs to happen about this, so they take the church to court and then you read the stories about the lawyers who kind of go to town on these people - does that feel like a contradiction to you?
"My approach has always been to respond as quickly as possible before you need to get to what I think is an almost inherently adversarial situation in court, where you start arguing hard points of law.
"I think I can truly, accurately say that we've resolved all issues so far without needing to go to court.
"We're trying by negotiation to find a substantial payment to people through negotiation with them and their solicitors - we've done that.
"When points come to be argued in court, they tend to follow the usual court style, so that whatever the claimant or their lawyers might say, the lawyers representing the church would answer each point, and I suppose what they would try to argue for as accurately as they can based on how they see the evidence.
"I think you do get that - it's kind of an adversarial system, that a court is, where you've got one person arguing and another person responding to those arguments.
"But we've tried, and happily, I think, to this point, we've been able to resolve issues without it finally getting to court.
"Sometimes it's taken a number of meetings with people, but personally I think it's a much better arrangement if you can do that so it's not an adversarial approach.
"I've tried to express my sadness, my regret, my sorrow at the abuse, and then see what we can do to help remedy the hurt that they've suffered, and help them in their life now, and that would be including some financial payment we would give.
"I've tried to do that directly, and very often, myself meeting with the person making a claim if they wish to.
"I don't see that as adversarial, but I do appreciate that if a point is being argued between lawyers, it does slip into that adversarial style.
"We've tried to resolve issues before getting to the point of arguing over each point of a claim, and I've accepted responsibility for the diocese over its history so people can bring their claim directly to me and I respond on behalf of the diocese.
"I can appreciate by the time people start having court proceedings and writs and all the details of what's alleged, and the negligence of various people, you can have a debate about what's established and what's still debatable, you can have different points of view, and the lawyers will argue those points, and points of law as well.
"In general, my approach is to try and resolve, and help the person, without needing to get to the point of a court hearing, and happily we've been able to do that in my seven years, and before me, for the 15 years or so that Bishop Peter Connors was responding to claimants, he was able to resolve without having to argue the case in court.
"Recently, there's been references to the initial correspondence between lawyers, where a claimant's lawyers would give a list of points and the lawyer representing the diocese would answer each of the points, accepting some and disagreeing with others - that's where recently you might have seen references to a more adversarial approach.
"But I see it as basically, at that point, you're trying to get what does the evidence actually show, that's what the court is meant to aim at.
"I much prefer if we can resolve issues without having to get to that adversarial situation.
Q - There is that case that's still going where you're named in it, and the diocese - are you able to comment on that, or -
"I wouldn't comment on any case - my general approach is that that's what courts are for, the court is there to weigh up the evidence, and in any particular case that's under way, I think in my mind it's not appropriate for me to comment on it.
Q - The diocese provided some funding to the Centre Against Sexual Assault - what's the response been, will this be ongoing?
"We've kept it as open for that commitment we've made, for this year it was to be $150,000, and next year $150,000.
"It's simply a donation, to be used as the people at the Centre consider is most helpful.
"I haven't caught up on that, except that it's been acknowledged, with an expression of thanks from the Centre.
"I'll be confident they'll be able to use the resources well.
Q - Local survivors - have there been ongoing discussions with any people about the idea of the healing centre, or ongoing strategies to help survivors?
"There's not any updates that I'm aware of, and actually the person who has more discussions is on holidays at the moment, he's not around for me to check in on for an update.
"We'll continue to say that our attitude is to be open to any discussions, and any way that we can be part of the community's response to assist those who've suffered abuse.
"We've said, in a number of ways, like the Centre Against Sexual Assault, simply giving a donation to that work is a way we've been able to help.
"We do continue to give some ongoing funding for counselling, and we're open to contribute in any way we can to any community actions.
Q - There's been criticism recently about the Redress Scheme, and I know there's several things - Towards Healing, Redress, there's other recommendations, private things and litigation - in terms of that, now that it's been up and running and the church has been a member for a while, how is it tracking?
"I don't have any more recent figures, but I think in general they're relatively small numbers who've made their approach through the Redress Scheme.
"The government group who is in charge of looking after that scheme has recommended that those who can should take their time - it's available for 10 years, so for those who feel they need to think about it more, that's okay.
"It may be that in general there've been fewer people come to the Redress Scheme to make a claim than would have been anticipated, and that would have been, ourselves, we wouldn't have received a large number.
"I would have thought that those who were ready to make a claim would have fairly quickly have contacted the Scheme to do that.
"In other ways, we do have a few approaches through Towards Healing, people are happy to use that avenue, or they approach directly and typically we encourage them to have a lawyer advise them.
"Some people might notify us of civil action, you might say that's similar to the ones that come directly to us, and when they do come directly, we would either, our response would be to indicate the avenues they could take, so it could be the Redress Scheme or Towards Healing, or with advice from a solicitor.
"We try to respond as best we can in whatever way the claim would come to us.
"The choice of how it comes, of course, is up to the person that brings the claim.
Q - There was another case I was wondering about, but we may have to wait until the appeal resolves one way or the other for Cardinal Pell, we'll have some questions about that for you later.
When you see the congregations - some churches have been sold off, land is potentially up for sale, how have you seen things change in your seven years? On a broader sense, in your experience in Ballarat, how are congregations and churches changing?
"On attendances in churches, I think it's very clear they're overall in Australia declining and ageing, both in the Catholic Church and in other denominations.
"It's related to the question earlier on, the increasing number of people who classify themselves as having no religion - it's a very broad question.
"The question, to me, of church attendance decline is one manifestation of a declining number of people for whom religion is a top priority in their life.
"People might come, and they do, on special occasions whether it's Easter or Christmas, or the baptism of their child, or a wedding or funeral.
"But if their religion, or their Christian faith, is not a high priority, then they understandably give more time to other matters in their life.
"I think it's not merely a question of how to immediately address the numbers in church on Sunday, it's what does faith mean to people personally, and if that can be addressed, perhaps by the good witness of Christians - so that people begin to ask their neighbour 'what motivates you? You seem to be following Christ in some way, maybe you're being charitable or belong to a church group that does charitable work, they might become interested in what motivates that person so the person can then explain something about their faith, and maybe after that, it makes sense to come together with the Christian community.
"If a person becomes more aware of the teaching of Christ, and finds that attractive, I think it was Pope Paul who referred to the church as the community of the disciples of Christ - it has to be both a community and a personal choice.
"If I have a faith in Christ, or am beginning to have a faith in Christ, then it makes sense to join with others who have a similar faith.
"That's what the Sunday gathering is, it's a gathering of those with faith in Christ and the more that that can be grown or revived in people, it's more likely the need for all those churches.
"The churches that have been sold or put to another purpose, it's typically because the congregation has declined so much that it's really not sustainable, you might end up with just a handful of people and they're not able to look after the church there.
Q - When we talk about communities, a lot of that comes from trust, and having this ground level (approach) - it becomes a rebuilding of trust exercise, it's definitely a question of personal faith, fair enough, but in terms of building a community, surely that comes back to having trust in that community first?
"I think on the local scene, I would feel the general, local parish trust has been stronger, you might say, than the general image of the church trust.
"For example, it's sometimes been said that people might have a lower regard for priests in general, or bishops, but their own parish priest they know well and have good trust in him.
"That's why I'd say in many ways the local communities have preserved fairly good trust in their local members, including the local priest who's a focal point for the community, even though, because of the crimes committed by some, the general regard for priests and bishops has declined
"With the news of the world, in a way, that we all receive day-by-day, it's another element of how we see reality.
"We see both on our local scene, what's happening in our local parish church, but it might be quite a different impression we get when we have the world news, or the Australian news.
"To my mind, it's that world scene, and the Australian scene as a whole, where there's even more need to rebuild trust.
"I'm pleased that in local parishes you've got people who have preserved their trust basically in the community, so you've got a commitment not just to the priest but to the community that's been preserved, and that's because of their positive experience in their local community, as a caring community.
"That, I think, is reassuring and consoling to me when I visit communities and see people's continuing commitment to one another in their community.
"I try to endorse that, and I think maybe that's one of the strengths which we can build - you might say the local scene to me, is relatively strong for those who form a conscious part of the local church community, but it's probably more the broad image of church in Australia and the world - and that image, I think, is only restored by action.
"Words will have some effect, like commitments, expressions of resolve, but it will be good actions that build up again.
"Just as, I think, all through history it's been when members of the church that have acted well, rightly according to Christ's teachings, that they've built up trust.
"Way back, say, the Franciscans during the times of illness throughout Europe, giving themselves to care for the sick - it's because of that kind of action that people began to have great trust in them as being selfless and willing to give themselves for the good of the community.
"It's through those actions that people build up their trust.
"Again, another example is doctors - when people know a very dedicated doctor, then their trust in the medical profession as a whole grows, and I think it's got to be the same for priests and bishops.
"The more that we can act properly, the more we're likely to build trust up again.
Q - You can acknowledge that where you do have a system like that, where the strength of community is built on trust, the breaches of that trust -
"Yes, and as some rightly observe, trust takes quite a while to build, but it can be lost very quickly and it takes a long time to build up again.
Bishop Paul Bird: "An interesting part of the Ad Limina (Apostolorum pilgrimage) is the celebrations of mass in the major basilicas, or major churches of Rome.
"In St Peter's, we had a very good opportunity, coincidentally almost, to be there for the Feast of St Peter and St Paul, which we celebrated with the Pope on the 29th of June, that was a a very big occasion.
"St Mary Major, the major refers to the main church dedicated to Mary in Rome, built I think in the 5th Century, and then St Paul's, of course, that's just outside the old walls of the city.
"(We visited) St Peter's tomb, St Paul's tomb, and St John Lateran is officially the Pope's cathedral.
"For many centuries, it was where the Pope lived, the Lateran buildings, and St John's church.
"It comes from the Lateran family, the original owners of the property, it's still called St John Lateran.
"You'll see, if you follow any main ceremonies, quite regularly the Pope will celebrate mass there as well as in St Peter's - St Peter's is used for the big ceremonies just because of the size, it is bigger than the other three ones, but each is a rather large church.
Q - So what's he like? What was the meeting like?
"Just as an introduction, he tends to wish to be fairly informal, and we were even encouraged about that, as just before we went in to see him, the priest who was just making the final arrangements says that the Pope really just prefers to shake hands rather than any other formal ways of bowing or whatever, just to shake hands with everybody, he shook hands with everybody as we came in and had a few words with each one.
"I just, in those few moments, brought him good wishes from the people of the diocese here, a few people had asked me to say hello to the Pope for them, so I brought him good wishes, which I was very happy to do, and he expressed his thanks.
"Then we sat down, there's a photo of all of us together - it was like an oval of chairs, like a big round table, in a large room with the Pope sitting (at one end) with his translator on his right.
"The Pope said a few words in English to begin, then he spoke in Italian, and it was a South African priest, interestingly, who was the translator - to me, he did an excellent job.
"He translated any questions or comments from the bishops, who spoke in English, then as the Pope smoke, almost simultaneously he gave the translation.
"The Pope would say a few words and then the translation, and a few more words, and the translation - after a while I almost forgot there was a translator because it was so direct.
"I think the Pope understands English fairly well, but the language they're most familiar with is what they can speak fluently in.
Q - And in a high level meeting like this you want to understand one another.
"Understanding correctly, you don't want to have misunderstandings because of the translation.
"It was very friendly - we spoke for well over two hours.
"The roles of people, generally, in the church, laypeople, bishops, priests - we discussed the Plenary, the full council coming up next year, and we've had a lot of consultation with parishioners right through the country.
"The Pope has often encouraged people to speak freely and express their views.
"His approach to the general conversation - he said, basically, whatever views you have, or questions you have, just raise them freely.
"There's no sin in criticising the Pope here, when we're face to face.
"He was very open to any critical comment, if anyone wanted to make it, and he encouraged people to be honest and open in their conversation.
Q - And do you feel it was an honest and open conversation?
"I did, yeah - for example, someone said they thought the Pope should do more for certain groups in the world, and naturally the Pope has to make decisions about where he's going to visit and so on - so that was a criticism from certain points of view, more emphasis needs to be given to a this group, they're going through a difficult time - that was in relation to the Middle East
"The Pope very graciously took that, he said 'I appreciate that point, I'll consider that as I make my plans'
"He does try, as we've seen, to visit areas where he feels his presence will be helpful, and that's very often in trouble spots around the world
"I think it was a very open meeting, even to that point of certain criticism, that there was a gap in some of the areas the Pope needs to attend to in world affairs.
"It was very open, and great range.
"I was the second one (to speak), I thought I'd hop in fairly quickly - even with the over two hours, and with the 38 bishops, there wasn't a chance for everyone to make a comment, but I'd say many did, and they were short comments or questions, and the Pope's answers were relatively short also, we must have got through a lot of different topics.
"Apart from what I spoke about, there was (a comment) about Aboriginal communities in Australia.
"You've got bishops, especially in the north of Australia, with a lot of Aboriginal people in their dioceses, and they raised questions about health and education.
"Another example is the bishops of the Middle East, or Eastern Rites bishops - most bishops are Latin rite or Roman rite, but there's some belonging to the Eastern Rite, like the Maronites who are mainly based from Lebanon.
"Some of the Eastern Rite bishops raised the issues of the Eastern Rite Catholics in the Middle East, and their communities in Australia, of course, often have direct links back there, like family members
"The other point I thought was a major point was a question about the general society and the number of people who, in the recent census, the growing number who put down no religion.
"I was very interested in the Pope's response, and he said as far as dialoguing with people who maybe don't have any religion, he highlighted the fact of how you life, first of all.
"It's basic, very fundamental approach in the gospel, the first thing is that you live according to the teaching of Christ, and we hope that that might prompt some questions from people, about what's behind the way that you live, and then in response to the questions, you can speak about Christ and your motives for living.
Q - It's interesting that was discussed, we were considering asking you that, and that everyone had different perspectives as well -
"It's different topics depending on where the bishop lives - it's the significant areas, whether it's the Aboriginal communities, or the general population that might be strongly Christian or in some parts of the country, it's not so strongly Catholic, and for other people, the Ecumenical, or relations with other churches, is really prominent.
"Maybe there are Catholics in a particular diocese working in a small group and other denominations are very sizeable - it depends on where you live, I think, on what seems to be the more pressing issues, so naturally that's what surfaced in the discussion.
Q - In terms of the discussion, did you go away happy?
"It was a good discussion, and I thought very encouraging.
"A lot of the issues are serious, you might say, and difficult - if you think about people who don't have any contact with religion in their lives, well, from the point of view of people who wish to share their faith, that's a serious question, but the Pope's approach was a very positive one.
"It wasn't lamenting the fact that people don't keep in touch with their local church for a while, it was, what can we do and maybe the most direct thing is to live according to your faith and Christ's teaching, and hope that that example will spark some interest in the Christian faith from those around you.
"I found that encouraging, so for any of the difficult issues that were raised, the Pope's approach is a positive one - what can we do to respond?
Q - I note there was a discussion about child abuse and the protection of minors, and there was something in the ACBC's press releases (which) mentioned we're willing to lead the world somewhat, that we're taking the systems being developed here and saying you can learn from us - what were some of the topics discussed?
"I raised that point, and I made my comment to the Pope, and the Pope's response was more of a general one.
"He referred to that meeting he organised in February with bishops and presidents of bishops conferences from around the world, and he said that the important motive for that was to highlight the importance of caring for children around the world.
"It's not only certain countries that have a duty with that regard, he wanted to highlight that everywhere in the world, in the church, and in society in general.
"That was the general point that the Pope made.
"He really did express a very deep sadness at any abuse of a child, and I suppose he was trying to express his compassion for those who suffered and I asked him to pray with us, basically, for those who suffered both directly and indirectly - the families or the whole community, as we're very conscious of in Ballarat.
"He was very much in tune with that, I think, expressing his personal sadness and sorrow, and referring to the gathering which was meant to highlight that important question for the rest of the world.
"Then, actually, as it turned out, it had been arranged late that afternoon - we met the Pope on the Monday morning, then later that afternoon we met that Council for the Protection of Minors, and it was there we talked about the steps that had been taken in Australia.
"In Victoria, for example, we had that Victorian inquiry, then there are standards set by the Victoiran government which we as a church had adopted and put into policies and procedures for that.
"And then, they were really expanded when the Royal Commission had their national inquiry and developed their own more detailed standards.
"We've adopted those, and currently we're having an audit, that's coming up towards the final meetings in a few weeks time - we're having an audit of how that is being implemented in the diocese, both in the parishes and in the schools and social services.
"In that respect, it's true that in Australia we've done a good deal both to respond to those who suffered abuse but also the standards are really, predominately focused on care for children now.
"The practices in whatever community or organisation it may be are ones that will keep children safe.
"We've done a good deal in Australia, and the Council for the Protection of Minors, which has a worldwide view, said one of their main projects at the moment is to gather information from countries and to see what they've said is best practice for caring for children, and I think the Australian experience will be helpful for that - they will draw on that and the idea is that if you can share good examples, so people around the world, as in every field, that can help everybody and they don't have to reinvent the wheel, they've got some good leads.
Q - I'm interested in visiting the dicasteries -
"We'd basically translate them as departments, like government departments.
Q - there's some pressing issues, like the discussions around the seal of confession, divorced people in the church, and the role of laypeople in the church - we talked about that last time I think, the diocese advisory council - is there anything you took away from meetings with these offices that you think you could apply here, or are there things we're doing better here in Ballarat?
"In relation to engagement of laypeople, I think the meetings we've had around the diocese here in preparation for the Plenary council next year is a good example, that would have been encouraged by a number of these groups.
"Another one that I would take encouragement from was the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development - that looks, as a very broad ranging department, questions of social justice and including questions of care for the environment.
"We've got a very good social justice council, which is predominantly laypeople, which works with our schools and parishes to promote an understanding of justice in society.
"I'm encouraged with that to see the good work that they're doing, they've sought to promote justice and education about justice around the world - I think we're on a good track here, both with the commission we have for social justice, but also the social justice emphasis in schools, and I noticed particularly in schools, the awareness of care for the environment, which Pope Francis, in one of his very early measures, highlighted as a very important part of doing the right thing in the world today.
"One of the great needs in the world today is the care for the environment which in many places has suffered from pollution and a lack of planning, so that maybe people put the profits of their company above any care for the environment - Pope Francis has emphasised that and this department of the Vatican has emphasised that - in practical ways, in our schools, whether it's a class group that spends some of the day planting trees, growing an awareness of caring for the environment.
Q - I suppose that's not something you'd associate with the Catholic Church - I don't mean that in a negative way - it's another way of looking after the world, I guess.
In terms of going to this - you're visiting the head office, you're visiting the Bishop of Rome - thinking about the hierarchy structure, going in as something of an outsider from Australia, was there anything that surprised you in the way it all works? Should things be put in motion to improve it? I know the Plenary will -
"I would say that Pope Francis, because of his more informal style, has influenced the way it operates, it doesn't operate, I would say, with all the formality it used to have.
"Just the fact the Pope was there welcoming people as they came in, there were some little touches that sets the tone for the whole operation.
"For example, during his two-hours plus discussion with us, a couple of times during that, a couple of times he poured a glass of water for him, which is probably not what used to have been done.
Q - It's not some guy sitting on a throne, with kissing the ring in his finery ?
"It seemed so natural - the translator was talking a lot as the Pope was talking a lot, and the translator was needing a little bit of water, so he poured some water in a glass and it continued on.
"The welcoming of each bishop and the general reflections that he had - he did even refer to the traditional formalities of the Vatican which would have been more emphasised in days gone by, but it inherits a lot of the history of the monarchies.
"As the Pope pointed out, it is the last of the absolute monarchies there are a lot of continuing monarchies in Europe but they're all constitutional monarchies so their role is very limited, whether it's in England or other countries in Europe.
"In the Vatican, there's still basically one person is very clearly the leader, who's in charge, therefore he said you've got a lot of formalities inherited from the old monarchies - you have a court, you have diplomats.
"At the Feast of St Peter and Paul, you had all the diplomats representing as ambassadors from all the different countries in one section not far from the altar.
"If you've seen the Christmas mass from the Vatican, the camera will scan those groups - that includes the Australian ambassador to the Holy See, Melissa Hitchman, she was there with several dozen other ambassadors.
"You've got those remnants from the earlier era where the Pope is a civil ruler of the papal states, and you've still got the Pope, or the Holy See, with diplomatic relations with many countries around the world, and that adds a certain formality.
"Just as ambassadors in all the countries have their formal ways of doing things, that influences also partly the way the Vatican relates with states or countries, and it quietly reflects too the general procedures in the departments.
"I suppose you could say it's a little like a government - you can't just phone the prime minister directly, you'd have to go through the departments, for example, and likewise you can't phone the Pope directly, though I think he's on Twitter as @Pontifex - that's another example of breaking down the distance between himself and the general population.
Q - There was an article from a former Boston Globe journalist who was a priest for many years - he said there's been a few crises, there's also been changes like Vatican II and Pope Francis - this could be an opportunity for radical changes, things like priests marrying, things like having more accountability and less having the priests, bishops, and the Pope so far above everything. What are your thoughts on that, having just come back from the Vatican?
"I think certainly Francis is seeking to do that, the closeness to people - that's a term he uses constantly.
"And solidarity, which has been used in recent decades - he tries to emphasise that and he himself tries to give an example of being close in the general audiences he has.
"In one fine photo I saw, a few days before our meeting, was the Pope reaching out to a child in the crowd, and that's an image of what Pope Francis is seeking to do.
"That really is what the Pope and the bishops and the priests are meant to do, and when there develops a distance, especially a sense of being above the general population, then it's gone astray.
"That goes way back to the gospels, when the apostles, the first disciples, started arguing which one was the greatest, and Jesus said it shouldn't be that among you.
"In general, the rulers in the world lord it over people and it's not meant to be you, the greatest among you must be your servant.
"I think that's one of the finest titles of the Pope, servant of the servants of God.
"You might say it's a radical change, but it's radical only in that it's going down to the root of things.
"It's not a completely new idea, it's recovering a very old idea.
Q - Every industry, every religion has people who abuse their powers financially or sexually, whatever, but if there is the focus now, there's discussions now about the approach the Pope is bringing to the church broadly -
"It's recovering what should have been the approach all through.
"I think that can be recognised by everyone in the church, people will have their different views within the church about what should be done, but if you appeal back the gospel - Jesus himself said that 'I came to serve', so he washed the feet of the disciples.
"Those images of the Pope washing the feet is really wanting to revive or reinvigorate the original inspiration.
"That's not as though it's a new idea, that the Pope has to explain and persuade people on, it's actually something that anyone who's read the gospel should recognise this is a very fundamental idea from Christ himself.
"The Pope is trying to correct things that have gone astray from the original inspiration, which is really what the reform in the church all through the centuries has tried to do, regain the original inspiration of Christ.
"In that regard, as far as serving rather than lording it over people is getting back on track again.
Q - Now that you've been back for a week or so, what sort of things from the visit will you start applying to the Diocese of Ballarat? Will you change things? What have you learned?
"That idea of the closeness to people, I think I have already over the years been doing a fair bit of visiting of parishes, and I think I've been encouraged by that just by the Pope's own example.
"I think that positive approach to challenges, as a general attitude, having been in the role now seven years, having quite a few challenges over those years.
"It depends on how you approach them, whether in a defensive mode or in a positive way.
"I think the Pope has given that inspiration, and the other congregations we met are facing challenges in a positive way - whether it's the development in our schools, the challenges with our social services with homelessness.
"We've got a few opportunities to expand care for people who need accommodation, I think my time there would encourage me to press on with those things.
"In general, the care for people in the parishes, the care for the priests who are really meant to be the ones who provide that community spirit amongst the people - I suppose I've drawn a great deal of encouragement from my time over there.
"It wasn't that there were these three recommendations and I will implement them, instead it's more high-level discussions, they didn't really get down to practical - one thing that was very specific, the Pope talked a deal about preaching and homilies, and said if there was one thing he would try to encourage improvement in, it would be in preaching.
"In priests that speak to their people each week, would both be able to convey what the gospel says, and link with what's happening in the lives of the people.
"That was one practical point and I'm sure I'll encourage the priests and try to do it myself.
"He said it's really valuable to spend a good deal of time preparing what you're going to say to the people,b ecause it's a key moment for them in their faith and if it's not used well, it's a missed opportunity.
"That was one specific point he highlighted.
"It was rather broad terms, principles, in a way.
"What's your basic approach to this issue? You think about it so in practice, with each local scene, what's the best thing to do.
Q - how are you going? You've been in the role for seven years, there's been challenges - how are you, yourself going, not as the bishop but as Paul? Are you finding it tough?
"I would say sometimes it's been quite tough but at the moment it's going along okay.
"Sometimes, really, I've needed with the encouragement of a few people around me to take a break, because one person can only do so much, especially if different pressures are on, it can be felt personally as well as acting in the role.
"A number of times out of those years people have encouraged me just to take a little time out which has been very much needed and appreciated.
"At the moment, with the time in Rome and the encouragement from Pope Francis, I think that's helped me have a good perspective.
"It also helps to have a broad perspective, we see the issues and challenges for our diocese in Ballarat, as part of Australia and the world, that can help to approach the challenges more calmly.
"I do try to approach those challenges in a steady kind of way, but as you suggest, you need to pause and take a breather so that you can just be a little away from the pressing issues for a while and then come back more refreshed.
"Looking back on my time when I was a student, when I was coming to the end of high school, I had three thoughts in mind of what I might be, one was a priest, one was a teacher, and one was a doctor, and they're all helpful and serving positions, but in each case, a person needs some time when there is extra pressure.
"We're hearing it quite often with teachers and principals, there's a lot of pressure in schools, so sometimes they would feel that, and likewise with doctors, I recently heard a radio documentary about doctors needing care because they can often be under great pressure.
"Likewise, a priest or bishop, because it's a helping profession and in recent years, here in Ballarat, there's been extra focus on some very difficult issues and that personally has an affect and you need to take a breather sometimes you can regain the strength.
"Happily with good support from people I'm going okay so far.
Q - how is the composing going?
"In earlier years I did a few pieces of composing but I haven't done anything recently."
*This is an edited version of the interview.
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