More protest ribbons outside Mass for George Pell in Melbourne cathedral

A protester adds his ribbon to the  collection outside the memorial service for George Pell, <i>Photo: AAP</i>

A protester adds his ribbon to the collection outside the memorial service for George Pell, Photo: AAP

Hundreds of mourners have gathered at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne to pay their respects to Cardinal George Pell.

The cardinal was laid to rest in Sydney on Thursday, almost a month after he died in Rome at the age of 81.

Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli, who presided over Friday night’s Requiem Mass, described Cardinal Pell as a great defender of the faith and a humble and faithful servant of God.

Before the service, a small contingent of protesters tied colourful ribbons to the cathedral’s gates in support of those who were sexually abused by members of the clergy.

“There are many people that have suicided, many people that are too old or frail or too scared to come here,” Brian Cherrie, one of those tying ribbons, told AAP.

“It’s important we remember them.”

One of the mourners who attended the service said it was the appropriate thing to do.

“You always go to a Mass for someone who has died,” the man, who didn’t want to be named, told AAP.

‘There’s an evil in the church’

“There’s evil in the church but there wasn’t evil in Cardinal Pell. He tried to do the right thing for people.”

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

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

However, he maintained his innocence and in 2020 his convictions were quashed by the High Court.

The cardinal also appeared before a Victorian parliamentary inquiry in 2013, where he acknowledged the church had covered up child abuse and sometimes placed priests above the law.

‘Complex and difficult years’

During Friday night’s Mass, Cardinal Pell’s time before the courts and his 404 days in custody were described as his “complex and difficult years”.

“As with his whole life, he remained steadfast in his faith, trusting in God and sustained by prayer, his family and his friends,” Monsignor Charles Portelli told the service.

Archbishop Comensoli instead spoke about Cardinal Pell’s generosity, sharing how he would regularly spend time with the poor and marginalised without any fanfare or notoriety.

“Most of those there would not have had a clue that he was a cardinal archbishop of some international renown,” the archbishop told the Mass.

“They knew him simply as a kind-hearted priest who came from time to time to be with them in Christian fellowship.”

The Melbourne Mass comes after a similar service was held in the Vatican last month.

Cardinal Pell was buried in the crypt of St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney after Thursday’s funeral.

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