Federal Liberal leader Peter Dutton has described George Pell as a man of immense faith who was the victim of a modern-day political persecution.
The Opposition leader marked the Cardinal’s death by accusing the Victorian Labor government of running a campaign against the world’s third-highest-ranking Catholic.
Pell, who died on Tuesday in Rome after suffering a cardiac arrest, was wrongfully imprisoned for more than a year after a Victorian convicted him of child sex offences. The conviction was later overturned by a unanimous decision of the High Court of Australia.
Dutton lauded Pell as a “a man of immense erudition and faith” but warned that lessons needed to be learned from the way he had been treated by Victorian police and courts.
“On his passing, the fact he spent a year in prison for a conviction that the High Court of Australia unanimously quashed should provide some cause for reflection for the Victorian Labor Government and its institutions that led this modern-day political persecution,” Dutton said.
Dutton said Pell had been a “fierce defender of the Catholic Faith and Christian ideals”.
“(Pell) never lost faith in his God, his country, and in justice – despite the tests and trials he endured in life,” he said.
The Opposition leader was one of many public figures who spoke out yesterday about the treatment of Pell, with legal expert Chris Merritt describing the guilty verdict against the world’s third highest ranking Catholic as “one of the greatest miscarriages of justice” in Australian history.
“The fact that an old sick man spent a long time in prison and was eventually shown by the highest court in the land to be innocent, it ranks up there with Lindy Chamberlain as one of the greatest miscarriages of justice we’ve ever seen in this country,” Merritt told Sky News Australia.
Merritt said Pell was the victim of what amounted to a “lynch mob” in Victoria who had been “gripped by frenzy”.