Protest staged ahead of Cardinal Pell’s funeral in Australia

Sydney, Australia, Feb 1 (EFE).- A protest was staged in Sydney on Wednesday in support of the victims of child sex abuse ahead of the funeral of Australian Cardinal George Pell, who was convicted of child sex abuse and later acquitted of the charges.

Hundreds of colorful ribbons were tied to a fence near the entrance of Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral, where Pell is lying in state until his funeral on Thursday.

The campaign has been organized by abuse survivor Paul Auchettl and Australian activist Pauline Pantsdown.

“I’ve come to Sydney to tie ribbons for people who are too sick to be here, and who aren’t alive anymore, and for their families who are too angry to be here,” Auchettl told Australian public broadcaster ABC.

The sexagenarian – who traveled almost 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) from the city of Ballarat to Sydney – said that the protest was a reminder of the church’s “unfinished business” with child sex abuse victims and their families.

The protest began hours before the arrival at St Mary’s of Pell’s coffin, who died in Rome on Jan. 10 of heart complications following hip surgery at the age of 81.

The cathedral opened its doors for the public to say their final farewells to the cardinal and attend the masses and vigils scheduled for Wednesday.

A requiem mass and private funeral service will be held on Thursday after the country’s authorities ruled out holding a state funeral out of respect for the survivors of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

LGTB+ campaign group called Community Action for Rainbow Rights also plans to hold another protest on Thursday in Hyde Park, in front of the cathedral, although the police have sought an order from the New South Wales Supreme Court to ban the demonstration.

In 2018, an Australian court sentenced Pell to six years in prison on five charges of sexual abuse against two minors in the 1990s. However, in April 2020, after the priest spent 13 months in prison, Australia’s highest court overturned the sentence in response to his final appeal.

A special commission looking into abuse committed by religious officials said in 2015 that up to 14 priests in Ballarat had sexually abused children and there were at least 130 substantiated complaints since 1980.

This official investigation, which received some 4,500 complaints against more than 1,800 religious officials for sexual abuse committed between 1985 and 2015, revealed in 2017 that Pell was “aware” of the problem in the church.

Pell was born in the city of Ballarat in Victoria state on June 8, 1941 and served as a priest and educator in several parishes and Catholic centers in Australia, including his hometown, in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Australian was then appointed an auxiliary bishop of Melbourne in 1987, archbishop of the same city in 1996 and archbishop of Sydney in 2001.

Two years later, he was appointed cardinal by Pope John Paul II and in 2014, he was appointed prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, a new post created by Pope Francis to tackle scandals involving the Vatican’s finances. EFE


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