SYDNEY – Mourners at the Sydney funeral of Australian Cardinal George Pell. Once the most senior Catholic to be convicted of sex abuse, remembered him on Thursday. As a victim of a campaign to punish him regardless of his crimes.
Meanwhile, several hundred protesters chanted from the streets denouncing Pell.
A staunch conservative who has angered gay rights advocates. And is among church leaders blamed for inaction on clergy sexual abuse. Tensions flared outside the cathedral when several mourners attempted. To remove ribbons displayed as symbols of abuse victims.
Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher told mourners at St Mary’s Cathedral that Pele. Once the Vatican’s third-highest official, was the author of a dozen books. Including three volumes of a diary written in prison. Before his child abuse conviction reversed in 2000.
“It was a happy outcome from the 404 days he spent in prison for a crime. He did not follow a media, police and political campaign to punish him whether he was guilty or not,” said Fisher. A long-time supporter of the man who succeeded him as archbishop of Sydney.
“Even after the High Court of Australia acquitted him, some continued to demonize him. But many appreciate the legacy of this most influential. Churchman in our nation’s history,” Fisher added.
Pele died in Rome last month aged 81 and returned to Australia to be buried in the cathedral’s crypt.
Mourners gathered outside the crowded cathedral to watch the service on a big screen.
Hundreds of protesters shouted “George Pele, go to hell” from the streets.
Pell returned to Australia from the Vatican in 2017 to fight abuse allegations made. By many complainants spanning decades in his home state of Victoria. The only allegations are that he abused two choirboys during. His first months as archbishop of Melbourne in the late 1990s.
His first trial ended with a deadlocked jury. But after his second trial he was found guilty by a unanimous verdict. He lost his first appeal in a 2-to-1 verdict but was acquitted by seven High Court judges.
He spent more than a year in prison, in solitary confinement, before he was cleared. But by then his Vatican career was over.
Pope Francis, who appointed Pell in 2014. As the first prefect of the created Secretariat for the Economy tasked with reforming the Vatican’s opaque finances. Sent a message at the funeral saying Australia’s most senior Catholic had “laid. The foundations with determination and wisdom for the Vatican’s economic reforms”.
Former Conservative prime ministers John Howard. And Tony Abbott were among mourners at the cathedral. While the current centre-left prime minister. Anthony Albanese, was represented by a government minister.
Sydney-based gay rights group Community Action for Rainbow Rights called. On people to join what it called “Pale Go to Hell”! Demonstration outside the cathedral.
Pell offended gay activists with the opinion. “Homosexual activity is a greater health hazard than smoking.”
Pele was Archbishop of Sydney from 2001 to 2014, when he was called to the Vatican.
He was Archbishop of Melbourne from 1996 to 2001. During which he was accused of abusing two choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
As church leader in Melbourne and later Sydney. Pell refused communion to gay workers wearing rainbow-coloured sashes.
Pell has also been a lightning rod for controversy over. Whether the Catholic Church has been held responsible for past child sexual abuse.
A 2017 national inquiry into institutional responses to child sexual abuse found. That Pell knew about clergy molesting children in the 1970s and did not do enough to address it.
Pele later said he was “surprised” by the investigation’s findings. “These views are not supported by the evidence,” Pell’s statement said.
Pele and his supporters believed he was being scapegoated. All the crimes of the Australian Catholic Church’s perverse response to clergy sexual abuse.
He died in Rome on January 10 of complications from heart disease following hip surgery. Francis gave a final blessing at Pele’s funeral, which took place in St. Peter’s Basilica on January 14.