Tony Abbott hails George Pell as a SAINT at funeral (2023)

Former prime minister Tony Abbott used his eulogy at Cardinal George Pell's funeral to take a brutal swipe at protesters who gathered outside - and hail him as a 'saint'.

A requiem mass for the man who became the highest ranking Australian Catholic was held at Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral on Thursday at 11am.

Delivering his eulogy, Mr Abbott made a nod to the protesters' sign, 'PELL BURN IN HELL'.

'At least they now believe in the afterlife. Saint George Pell's first miracle,' he joked during the service.

'He's the greatest Catholic Australia has ever produced and one of our country's greatest sons.'

Cardinal Pell, 81, died in Rome in January after complications following a hip replacement surgery.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott used his eulogy at Cardinal George Pell's funeral to take a brutal swipe at protesters who gathered outside

His handling of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests and brothers, homosexuality and abortion have angered many, prompting protesters to gather outside the church.

Cardinal Pell served 406 days of a six-year sentence over child sexual abuse allegations but always maintained his innocence. The High Court overturned the decision in 2020.

There were tense scenes outside the funeral on Thursday as Catholic supporters clashed with protesters and one man was dragged away from the cathedral for blowing a whistle outside the service.

Hundreds of protesters gathered across the road in Hyde Park before marching to the edge of the street carrying rainbow flags and banners.

They were allowed to stand in the middle of the road chanting 'George Pell, go to hell' for about five minutes, just a few metres from more than a thousand mourners outside the cathedral.

Some mourners shouted abuse at the protesters and confronted police, who stood between the two groups, demanding they be ordered to move.

The protesters eventually marched down College St after they were moved on by police.

The whistle-blowing man (pictured) was dragged away from the cathedral by the police and told not to come back

The cathedral was packed for the requiem mass for Cardinal George Pell before he is buried in Sydney

Daily Mail Australia also filmed an irate Pell supporter confronting protesters outside the Sydney cathedral on Thursday morning just before the funeral started.

(Video) Pope Francis presides funeral rites of Cardinal George Pell

The supporter, dressed in a grey T-shirt and shorts, yelled at two protesters holding a 'Pell burn in hell' banner across the road from the cathedral with the word 'hell' painted as if it was on fire.

'We want that taken down,' the supporter told the police officer, who was trying to calm the man.

The supporter then spoke directly to the two protesters holding the sign.

'Take it down, you're aggravating a lot of f**king people,' he said.

A woman next to him, dressed in business clothes, was holding a sign that read 'anti-Catholic bigotry must end'.

Police outside the cathedral ensuring no protesters make it into the service

Police managed to get the protesters to move the signs (pictured) further away from the cathedral

The Catholic supporter clashed with protesters while a woman next to him held a sign that read 'anti-Catholic bigotry must end'

The man later clashed with LGBTQI protesters outside the mass

The man could then be heard asking a protester if they had 'looked in the mirror' and asked them 'are you a dyke?'.

'Dyke' is a homophobic slur, typically used against lesbians.

'I do not respond to dykes so please move, you're a dyke, that's not hate speech. Go film your own people, you are not welcome here, go take your f**king sign off, get your people to move, they can go f**k themselves,' he yelled.

More than a thousand mourners lined up for hours in the hot sun for a chance to get inside the church to watch Cardinal Pell's funeral, in a queue that stretched around the edge of the cathedral square and up College Street.

The well-wishers included a multitude of ethnicities and nationalities with ages ranging from the elderly to newborn babies, as well as dozens of nuns in white and purple habits, and monks in their cowls.

Catholic men's group Knights of the Precious Blood had a dozens-strong contingent in their black shirts and entire workplaces attended together in uniform.

(Video) ‘He should never have been investigated’: Crowd applauds Abbott speech at Pell’s funeral

Many wore crucifixes or held rosary beads, muttering prayers for Cardinal Pell.

Only a small number made it inside, the rest staying in the square to watch the funeral on large TV screens.

Notably, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet did not attend the service.

NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns skipped the service, and Governor-General David Hurley didn't attend either.

NSW MP Damien Tudehope represented Mr Perrottet who will miss the funeral due to 'prior commitments'.

'I would say to everybody across our state, I think it's a time that we come together and show respect,' Mr Perrottet told reporters on Wednesday.

Hundreds of mourners take the eucharist while Pell's mass is held inside

Mr Albanese is in Canberra, where he is meeting the NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles for urgent talks on crime in Alice Springs.

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews last month said a state funeral or memorial for Cardinal Pell, a former archbishop of Melbourne, would be distressing for victim-survivors, but the Cardinal's legacy would be for others to judge.

'These things are usually offered and there will be no offer made,' he said.

Mr Perrottet also ruled out a state funeral.

Mr Albanese expressed his condolences on the Cardinal's death last month.

'For many people, particularly of the Catholic faith, this will be a difficult day, and I express my condolences to all those who are mourning today,' he said.

Hundreds of Sydneysiders queued in the sun for hours to take the eucharist

About 10.15am, a few hundred mourners kneeled on the stone paving to chant the rosary for 15 minutes.

As the funeral began, volunteers handed out orders of service for mourners outside to follow, including hymns and prayers they sang and recited in unison.

Some used them in a desperate attempt to shield themselves from the sun, while a small number came prepared with umbrellas.

Every speech, all glowing with praise for Cardinal Pell, were followed by clapping and cheering.

Former prime minister John Howard was spotted arriving at the funeral just before it started as well as Opposition Leader Peter Dutton.

(Video) Tensions boil over at Cardinal George Pell’s funeral | 7NEWS

Former prime minister John Howard arriving to pay his respects to Cardinal George Pell

Radio broadcaster Alan Jones (pictured centre) also attended the service but appeared to sit alone

Nuns arriving to pay their respects to George Pell

Thousands are expected to attend St Mary's Cathedral to farewell George Pell

Opposition leader Peter Dutton arriving at the cathedral to pay his respects to George Pell

NSWPolice on Wednesday predicted there would be clashes after hundreds of protesters were given the green light to hold a protest outside the funeral.

It comes as officers were called to the cathedral late Wednesday night after mourners approached child abuse activists who had been tying ribbons to the fence.

Footage captured by 9News showed supporters of the cardinal allegedly shouting at the silent protesters.

Police officers were seen breaking up the crowd and talking to people following the clash.

The Today Show filmed police officers sweeping the church on Thursday morning.

'They have done a sweep inside the church. There are the last half-a-dozen police cars stationed here,' reporter Lara Vella said.

'They have been keeping a close eye on a particular group of men who have been doing laps of St Mary's Cathedral. I have seen them lots and lots of times.'

Clashes outside St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney ahead of Cardinal George Pell funeral

(Video) Cardinal George Pell's funeral protested in Sydney | 9 News Australia

Riot police out in force on Thursday morning ahead of the funeral

Clashes outside St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney ahead of Cardinal George Pell funeral. Picture: 9News

Hundreds of mourners gather outside St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney

NSW Police announced it would attempt to stop the protest in the Supreme Court over 'safety concerns' on Tuesday.

But the court was told on Wednesday that 'alternative arrangements' to use a different route had been made with protest organisers had been made.

Protesters are allowed to march through Hyde Park and will stand at the square outside the cathedral.

Outside court, Acting Assistant Commissioner Martin Fileman told media it was 'never the intention' to stop or oppose any protest activity.

He said there was a 'risk' of clashes between protesters and Pell supporters, which is why the 'buffer zone' will 'mitigate the risk'.

CARR organiser Kim Stern told media the action by NSW Police was an attempt to 'suppress our democratic right to protest'.

'They tried to stop us from marching next to the church, they wanted us to march in the opposite direction ... they claimed it was a security issue, a safety issue,' Mr Stern said.

'I think if we were denied the right to march right up opposite the church ... those people would have been very happy if they could have gone in unperturbed by that.'

Mr Stern said it was a massive victory for the activists, who will be able to have their voices heard.

'Now we're able to march up right opposite the church and have our voices heard, have a loud, visible, angry rally that's going to be hearing from survivors of abuse in the Catholic Church,' he said.

(Video) Protesters and mourners clash at Sydney church ahead of George Pell's funeral | ABC News

Police mix with mourners outside St Mary's Cathedral on Thursday morning


1. Mourners attend Cardinal George Pell’s funeral, others protest outside | 7NEWS
(7NEWS Australia)
2. Police to shut down protest planned for George Pell’s funeral | 7NEWS
(7NEWS Australia)
3. Cardinal George Pell’s funeral divides Sydney | 9 News Australia
(9 News Australia)
4. 11am Solemn Pontifical Funeral Mass for Cardinal George Pell at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney 2/2/23
(St Mary's Cathedral Sydney)
5. Cardinal George Pell's Funeral Underway At Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral | 10 News First
(10 News First)
6. In Memoriam, George Cardinal Pell
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