Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott described Cardinal George Pell as “one of our country’s greatest sons” as he was farewelled in Sydney yesterday.
Abbott told more than a thousand mourners packed into St Mary’s Cathedral that Pell was “the greatest Catholic Australia has ever produced”.
As a small group of protestors outside the church chanted “Pell go hell”, Abbott told mourners inside that Cardinal Pell as a “great hero” and a “saint for our times” who was “made a scapegoat for the church itself”, a reference to his conviction – later overturned – on child sex offences.
“He should never have been investigated, in the absence of a complaint,” he said.
“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 case, as the High Court so resoundingly made plain. Had he died in jail, without the High Court’s vindication, this – today – would have been a very different event, even though his innocence would have been no less, had it been known only to God.”
Abbott said that at least the protestors demanding Pell be sent to hell demonstrated a belief in the afterlife and joked that “perhaps this is Saint George Pell’s first miracle”.
“His greatest triumph, in fact, was not to have held the highest ecclesiastical offices of any Australian, but to have kept his faith in circumstances that must have screamed: ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’
“Not to succumb to anger, self-pity or despair – when almost any other human would – and instead to have accepted this modern-day crucifixion, walking humbly in the footsteps of Our Lord; that’s the heroic virtue that makes him, to my mind, a saint for our times.”