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Cardinal talks of ordeal to students

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Australian Cardinal George Pell is pictured in Rome May 8, 2014. PHOTO: CNS/Robert Duncan

Christianity “helped me to survive” says Cardinal Pell

Cardinal George Pell has urged university students from across Australia to reflect on the Christian teaching on suffering, offering advice for those experiencing what he called “moments of extremity”.

Patron of the Australian Catholic Students’ Association for close to 20 years, the Cardinal addressed the students at an online retreat held over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.

Referring to his own 13 months imprisonment, he said there is a lot of goodness in prisons and many others go through much greater suffering than what he experienced.

“My ordeal was difficult and unpleasant but it was far from the worst”

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“My ordeal was difficult and unpleasant,” the Cardinal said, “but it was far from the worst… My suffering was not like that, for example, of parents who have lost children.”

However, prison had confirmed for him the importance of the importance of the Christian understanding on suffering.

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

Cardinal shares tips for coping with suffering

He offered five basic rules for anyone going through times of grief, loss or other suffering.

They included setting a fixed time to rise each day, ensuring a a fixed number of hours to sleep each night, eating regularly because it is easy for a person to neglect nourishment when they are in shock, avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol, and ensuring regular exercise every day.

For him, walking had been therapeutic, he said. He also encouraged the students to cultivate good habits while they are young, in order to prepare well for future suffering.

“Good habits of mind and habits of practice encourage you in the right direction 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.

The retreat included talks accessible via Zoom, and Masses, Holy Hours and Rosaries livestreamed directly to Facebook.

Other speakers included ACSA chaplain Father Paul Rowse OP, Monash University chaplain Father Robert Krishna OP, Professor Tracey Rowland and the Sisters of the Immaculata.

ACSA President Alex Kennedy said that the students were honoured the Cardinal made the retreat one of his first appearances after his release from prison.

“His humility, strength, and good humour were unchanged. We are greatly inspired by his example,” Mr Kennedy said.

“We found the Cardinal’s words of suffering applicable not just to his own testimony, but to this current episode in the life of the Church and the nation. His love for our university students immediately became apparent, as he gave us his wise counsel and eloquent testimony.”

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