Protests as Australia holds funeral for Cardinal Pell
Sydney, Australia, Feb 2 (EFE).- Protests sparked the anger of mourners gathered for the funeral of Cardinal George Pell outside St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on Thursday.
Pell, who in 2018 became the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted of child sex abuse – and who was later acquitted – died in Rome on Jan. 10 at the age of 81 following heart complications.
Chanting “Pell, go to hell,” hundreds of people gathered for a demonstration in Hyde Park, in front of the cathedral, to protest against Pell’s conservative views on LGBT+ rights and other social issues.
Likewise, child sexual abuse survivors and their supporters – who on Wednesday filled the perimeter of the cathedral with colored ribbons – joined the protest with signs such as “Forget Pell, remember children.”
The chants of the protesters, many of whom carried rainbow flags, prevented those gathered in the church courtyard from being able to see and hear the service for Pell, leading to verbal confrontations.
National broadcaster ABC reported that one man was arrested.
Inside St Mary’s, Pell’s private funeral service was held prior to his burial in the cathedral’s crypt, with hundreds of worshipers in attendance, including former conservative prime ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott and opposition leader Peter Dutton, with notable absences including current leader Anthony Albanese.
In his homily, Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher said Pell “was a far from perfect prince: the calumnies of his enemies were baseless, and his imprisonment wrongful, and he is remembered by history as Richard Coeur de Lion, the Lion Heart, because of his courage,” comparing him to the 12th century king of England.
A letter from Pope Francis was also read out, highlighting the contribution of Pell as prefect emeritus of the Vatican secretariat for the economy, to the economic reform of the Holy See and his “unwavering” following of God, “even in the hour of trial.”
Pell, a figure that polarizes Australia, was in 2018 convicted of five counts of sexual abuse against two boys in the 1990s and later sentenced to six years in prison. In April 2020 he was acquitted by the country’s highest court.
A government royal commission heard that between 1980 and 2015, 4,444 people alleged they were abused as children in more than 1,000 Catholic institutions of the country with 1,880 alleged perpetrators identified. The commission in 2020 determined that Pell knew of child sexual abuse by clergy and failed to take proper steps to act on complaints.
Pell was born in Ballarat, Victoria, and returned to his hometown to become a priest and begin his long career in which he served as the archbishop of both Melbourne (1996) and Sydney (2001), and became Vatican treasurer in 2014. EFE