Protests and tears as Pell lies in state in Sydney

Ribbons on the fence of St Mary's Cathedral

Source: Twitter/Loud Fence

A protest will go ahead outside George Pell’s funeral mass at Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral, after an urgent court hearing on Wednesday.

Demonstrators agreed to alter their route for Thursday’s planned protest after a bid by NSW Police in the Supreme Court to block it was withdrawn.

LGBTI group Community Action for Rainbow Rights planned to protest directly outside St Mary’s Cathedral to coincide with the funeral mass for Cardinal Pell.

However, NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb filed an urgent application to block the protest. Ms Webb’s barrister Sebastian De Brennan told the Supreme Court on Wednesday the commissioner did not seek to stop the protest going ahead.

“It is simply that the proposed route, on our case, causes problems in terms of public safety,” he said.

Tahn O’Rourke, acting for the organisers, said there was scope for further discussions to address concerns about protesters on College Street, which runs between St Mary’s and the eastern side of Hyde Park.

The parties were given time to discuss and agreed protesters would be allowed to walk up to College Street, but not down it, Mr De Brennan said.

He said Justice Peter Garling would not be asked to make any order as the parties had come to an agreement.

“The matter has been resolved,” he said.

Mr De Brennan also sought leave to file a notice to discontinue the application electronically, which was consented to.

Justice Garling praised the parties for their handling of the application.

“I would like to thank the parties and the lawyers for resolving something that arouses no doubt great passions,” he said before leaving the bench on Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Pell’s body lay in state at St Mary’s on Wednesday, as outside supporters of sexual abuse survivors tied colourful ribbons on the church’s perimeter fence in a silent protest.

Cardinal Pell died in January and was given a traditional funeral at St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

On Wednesday, a procession of about 100 people accompanied the controversial cardinal’s body as it was transferred by hearse along Sydney’s College Street to the cathedral.

Two masses will be held at the cathedral on Wednesday, followed by an evening vigil.

Protests outside St Mary's Cathedral

Thousands of mourners are expected to attend Thursday’s 11am requiem mass before Cardinal Pell – Australia’s most senior Catholic clergyman – is buried in a private ceremony in the cathedral crypt.

NSW Premier and fellow Catholic Dominic Perrottet will not attend Thursday’s service for the 81-year-old former Catholic archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney, but urged people to behave respectfully.

“I would say to everybody across our state today it’s a time to come together and show respect,” he said.

Finance Minister Damien Tudehope will attend the service as a representative of Mr Perrottet.

Survivors of clerical abuse and their supporters surrounded the cathedral in a silent protest on Wednesday morning, attaching ribbons in a rainbow of colours to the fence, which were removed by security guards before being replaced.

Deputy Commissioner Mal Lanyon said police respected the right of people to protest but there were safety concerns that hadn’t been resolved during negotiations.

“There’s a number of aspects within the form that was launched by the organisers that we believe present a risk to public safety,” he told ABC TV.

One mourner at St Mary’s on Wednesday said it was a sad day for Catholics across Australia.

“He’s controversial because he stood up for the truth of Christ,” she told the Nine newspapers. “His legacy is a huge generation of young priests and better-educated Catholics.”

george pell

George Pell’s coffin arrives at St Mary’s on Wednesday. Photo: Getty

Paul Auchettl, whose late brother was a victim of clerical abuse by a priest under the leadership of Cardinal Pell in Ballarat during the 1970s, spent the morning tying ribbons to the church.

“Tying a ribbon becomes a sacred act. What you’re doing is trying to honour someone who might not be here anymore or who’s struggling,” he said.

Throughout the morning, drivers in passing cars honked horns in support of the colourful protest, while survivors cried and bonded over their collective trauma.

Veronica Eldridge, whose late husband endured abuse as a child, and Nicky Davis, who is a survivor, say they feel buoyed by the show of support.

“I’m actually feeling really empowered because we are having our say,” Ms Davis said.

Cardinal Pell was the Vatican’s top finance minister before leaving Rome in 2017 to stand trial in Melbourne for child sexual abuse offences.

He was convicted the following year of molesting two teenage choirboys in the sacristy of Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral while archbishop in 1996.

Cardinal Pell maintained his innocence and in 2020 his convictions were quashed by the High Court.

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Topics: George Pell
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