Police are attempting to block LGBTQI protests from being held outside the funeral of Cardinal George Pell, citing concerns for community safety.

The former archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney died in a Rome hospital last month from heart complications following hip surgery and was given a traditional cardinal’s funeral by the Vatican at St Peter’s Basilica. He was 81.

Protest group Community Action for Rainbow Rights applied to demonstrate outside the funeral at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on Thursday.

“However, despite attempted negotiations with organisers, safety concerns associated with their proposed assembly cannot be adequately mitigated without amendments to the proposal,” NSW Police said.

“As such, the Commissioner will apply to the NSW Supreme Court to prohibit the assembly.

“The NSW Police Force recognises and supports the rights of individuals and groups to exercise their rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, however, the first priority is always the safety of the wider community.”

A solemn reception has been planned for Cardinal Pell on Wednesday morning, with two masses followed by a vigil where mourners are invited to pay their respects.

The Sydney-based protest group planned their demonstration for Thursday, when a requiem mass will be held before the cardinal is buried in a private ceremony at St Mary’s crypt.

The group said it would go ahead with a peaceful march on Thursday morning timed with the funeral, despite the police order.

“We need everybody to come out and protest on Thursday,” it said on Facebook.

“We can’t let the police get away with denying us our right to protest.”

The Catholic ceremonies are expected to attract thousands and screens will be put up in the cathedral’s exterior forecourt to accommodate the mourners.

It comes as survivors of sexual abuse tie coloured ribbons to the fences of St Mary’s Cathedral in central Sydney, which symbolise sexual abuse perpetrated by the clergy.

Cardinal Pell was the Vatican’s top finance minister before leaving Rome in 2017 to stand trial in Melbourne for child sexual abuse offences.

The following year, he was convicted of molesting two teenage choirboys in the sacristy of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne while archbishop in 1996.

He maintained his innocence and in 2020 his convictions were quashed by the High Court.


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