While mourners clashed with protestors at George Pell’s funeral in Sydney on Thursday, several notable Australians were missing from the service.
Neither Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet or Governor General David Hurley attended the controversial clergyman's requiem mass at St Mary’s Cathedral.
NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns also skipped the ceremony which took place amid a backdrop of sexual abuse survivors and their supporters protesting outside the church and holding signs reading “Pell burn in hell".
When approached by Yahoo News Australia, the Prime Minister’s office said it had sent Don Farrell, the Minister for Trade and Tourism, to represent the Government instead.
Former PM celebrates Pell as ‘great hero’
There were however a number of former Australian prime ministers among the congregation including John Howard and Tony Abbott who delivered the Cardinal’s eulogy. Opposition Leader Peter Dutton was also there.
Paying tribute to the 81-year-old who died in Rome in January after complications following a hip replacement, Mr Abbott said he was “the greatest Catholic Australia has ever produced” and “one of our country’s greatest sons".
“This funeral is less a sad farewell to a great friend and more a joyous tribute to a great hero,” he added.
Mr Abbott went on to say that Cardinal Pell should be declared a saint.
Acknowledging his brother’s 404 days spent in prison after being convicted of molesting two teenage choirboys in 1996 before the convictions which were later quashed on appeal, David Pell said the Cardinal was “a good and holy man” who “believed in the rule of law".
Protesters converge outside church gates
But while thousands of people mourned Cardinal Pell’s passing inside the church, dozens of protestors gathered outside its gates.
In an 11th-hour deal with the NSW Police force, LGBTIQ+ group Community Action for Rainbow Rights went ahead with its demonstration across the road. The protest came just hours after ribbons tied to the gates of the cathedral in support of child sexual abuse victims in the days leading up to the service were removed overnight.
Among those in attendance outside the church was Scott, who described himself as a survivor.
“I am actually here to pay my disrespects to George Pell,” he told Yahoo News Australia. “He hasn’t even been taken to task yet.”
While another protester said she was there “because the church has failed the victims and instead of honouring Pell, they should be honouring the children survivors".
As tensions escalated with NSW police outside St Mary’s Cathedral, two people were taken into custody, 9 News reported.
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