Tony Abbott calls for George Pell to be declared a saint
Chanting protesters have tried to drown out the funeral service being held for Cardinal George Pell in Sydney.
On one side of College Street, mourners spilled into the forecourt of St Mary’s Cathedral as Archbishop Anthony Fisher is led the service for Cardinal Pell.
Former prime ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott, as well as Liberal Party leader Peter Dutton, were among the crowd of mourners.
— Clinton Maynard (@ClintMaynard2GB) February 1, 2023
In his eulogy, Mr Abbott claimed Cardinal Pell was “wronged in life” and should be declared a saint.
“There should be Pell study courses, Pell spirituality courses, Pell lectures, Pell high schools and Pell university colleges, just as there are for the other saints,” the former prime minister said.
The crowd laughed as Mr Abbott took a jab at the crowds chanting ‘Cardinal Pell, go to hell’ outside.
“At least they now believe in the afterlife. Saint George Pell’s first miracle.”
Those who couldn’t fit inside struggled to hear the service over protesters’ chants at times as they watched on big screens outside.
A few angry verbal clashes between protesters and mourners but the protest has now moved well away from St Mary’s Cathedral. @2GB873
— Clinton Maynard (@ClintMaynard2GB) February 2, 2023
Nine Radio reporter Clinton Maynard says police were forced to step in as tensions grew between the two groups.
“I don’t think we’ve ever seen a situation before where a significant figure in Australian society is farewelled in a funeral service while, on the other side of the street, there are angry protesters … shouting out those sorts of chants,” he said.
“There were a few verbal altercations between mourners and protesters. Credit to police, they were able to defuse that situation pretty quickly.”
Press PLAY below to hear Clinton Maynard’s full report from the scene
The protesters have since moved south to a different part of the Sydney CBD, away from St Mary’s.
The clashes came after satirical comedy group The Chaser was turned away from entering the cathedral.
Decided to drop by St Mary's cathedral to pay our lack of respects pic.twitter.com/PEvqB9KdOo
— The Chaser (@chaser) February 1, 2023
Image: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images, Rick Rycroft/Pool via Getty Images