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The New Daily

George Pell: Cardinal remembered as ‘saint for our times’

Tony Abbott's eulogy for George Pell 10 News First – Disclaimer

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has remembered Cardinal George Pell as “the greatest man I have ever known” who had been “wronged in life” and endured a “modern crucifixion”.

In a eulogy for the late Catholic leader in Sydney on Thursday, Mr Abbott said Cardinal Pell was a “saint for our times” who was made a scapegoat for the church.

“He should never have been investigated in the absence of a complaint,” Mr Abbott said, drawing applause from the assembled mourners.

“He should never have been charged in the absence of corroborating evidence.

“And he should never have been convicted in the absence of a plausible cause, as the High Court so resoundingly made plain.”

Mr Abbott said the funeral was a “joyous tribute to a great hero”.

“He’s the greatest Catholic Australia has produced and one of our country’s greatest sons,” he said.

Referring to the protesters outside St Mary’s Cathedral, Mr Abbott joked: “As I heard the chant, ‘Cardinal Pell should go to hell’, I thought, ‘Aha, at least, they now believe in the afterlife’.”

“Perhaps this is Saint George Pell’s first miracle.”

Mr Abbott was among a parade of conservative figures who attended the service, including Liberal leader Peter Dutton, former prime minister John Howard and shock jock Alan Jones.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese did not go, nor did NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.

Earlier, George Pell was remembered as the son of a publican who rose to become the most senior Australian in the Catholic Church.

Thousands of mourners packed Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral on Thursday for the controversial figure’s requiem mass, while others gathered outside to watch the service on screens.

The former Catholic archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney will be laid to rest after the mass, following his death in Rome last month aged 81.

The mass was celebrated by Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher. He paid tribute to his friend, the son of a Ballarat publican, who spent 56 years as a priest and rose to become the third most powerful man in the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Pell was a bold and brave advocate for the Catholic Church who brought World Youth Day to Australia and “remained very much an Australian until the end”, Archbishop Fisher told the congregation.

He said the “giant of a man” had a big heart, and that when he was ordained at the Vatican he adopted the motto “Be not afraid”.

The 12 books he wrote included journals produced during his 404 days in prison after being convicted of molesting two teenage choirboys in 1996. The convictions were later quashed.

“Even after he was unanimously exonerated by the High Court, some continued to demonise him,” Archbishop Fisher said.

“But many appreciate the legacy of this most influential churchman in our nation’s history.”

A protester's car outside the cathedral

Source: Twitter/River McCrossen

NSW Police riot squad units remained outside the cathedral during Thursday’s service to ensure a buffer zone was maintained between mourners and protesters, who marched past the cathedral forecourt chanting “George Pell go to hell”.

A group of men attending the service yelled angrily at protesters and at police, telling them to move the rally on. There were reports police had dragged away one protester, as the demonstrators sometimes drowned out the funeral proceedings for those watching on screens outside.

The Vatican ambassador to Australia, Charles Balvo, read a message from the Pope during the service thanking his “faithful servant” for his work reforming the Church’s finances.

He said that as Vatican treasurer Cardinal Pell diligently implemented “economic reform for which he laid the foundations with determination and wisdom”.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, former prime ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott, media personality Alan Jones and divisive politicians Mark Latham and Matt Canavan were in the congregation.

Pro-Catholic supporters confront protesters outside Thursday’s service. Photo: AAP

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Opposition Leader Chris Minns did not attend.

An 11th hour compromise was reached on Wednesday to allow a protest organised by LGBTQI group Community Action for Rainbow Rights to proceed.

Protest organisers agreed not to march on College Street directly next to the cathedral, but were allowed to gather on the other side of the road, within earshot of mourners.

Police clashed briefly with protesters as they removed a sign claimed to be unlawfully fixed to a point across the road from the cathedral.

“We’re not here to cause trouble, we’re here to bring attention to the abuse, that’s all,” protester Max Elbourne said.

Rally organiser Kim Stern said the protesters would abide by police directions as they chanted and heard speeches by LGBTI and abortion rights activists.

“We want a strong, loud, vibrant and visible rally to oppose everything Pell stood for,” he said.

Thousands of colourful ribbons attached to the cathedral’s gates in memory of those who suffered sexual abuse by clergy were removed overnight.

Tensions flared briefly about 9am on Thursday when some mourners tried to remove ribbons tied to a small area of cathedral fence where the Church had allowed them to be tied.

Cardinal Pell’s conservative stance on issues including gay marriage and abortion rights had been the subject of criticism, and he faced allegations of covering up child abuse.

-with AAP

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