Protesters are planning to march to Sydney’s St Mary’s cathedral on the day of George Pell’s funeral to denounce his strident and long-held opposition to same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ rights.
Pell is expected lie in state at St Mary’s Cathedral before a requiem mass on 2 February, led by archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher. Pell will then be buried in the cathedral’s crypt in a private ceremony.
Community Action for Rainbow Rights, a campaign group for LBTQ+ rights, has already announced plans to protest. It is organising a march to St Mary’s on the 2 February.
Organisers say they’re expecting “hundreds of people, at least” at the protest. By late Thursday, about 75 people had committed to attending on the group’s Facebook page.
The group described Pell as a “key figure of right-wing conservatism” who made derogatory statements about LGBTQ+ people, labelling same-sex relationships a greater health hazard than smoking. He also suggested abortion was a worse moral failing than child abuse.
April Holcombe, Community Action for Rainbow Rights co-convener, said the group could not stay silent.
“In terms of protesting him, importantly, what we see from politicians and the press is a chorus of mourning for this man. Tony Abbott called him a ‘saint for our times’, an inspiration for the ages, and John Howard said he should never have even been charged, let alone convicted,” Holcombe said.
“When this is the response of official society and the political elite, it’s really important that progressive forces, forces for justice, make their voices heard.”
The group, then known as Community Action Against Homophobia, protested against Pell when he was appointed archbishop of Sydney in 2001.
Earlier this week, St Mary’s Cathedral dean, Father Don Richardson, said thousands of mourners from Australia and overseas were expected to attend the mass.
“Cardinal Pell left a remarkable legacy for the Catholic church in Australia and this will undoubtedly be one of the most significant funerals ever held at the cathedral,” he said.
Other forms of protest have already begun.
Some Sydney-siders have been tying ribbons to the fence of the cathedral, to commemorate and give voice to survivors and victims of clergy abuse.
Guardian Australia reported on Wednesday that those ribbons were being removed, prompting criticism of church staff.
Simon Hunt, a satirist sometimes known as Pauline Pantsdown, had encouraged locals to emulate the ribbon-tying conducted in Ballarat during the royal commission.
“[Pell’s] death has triggered a lot of memories and feelings among people who are survivors of child sexual assault. I’m not a Christian, I’m not personally affected by child sexual assault, aside from relationships with friends and family who have been,” he said.
“It was very much the whitewashing of George Pell that made me go forward and start that campaign – although when I got there was already a ribbon there.”
The archdiocese and staff at St Mary’s did not respond to queries from Guardian Australia about the removal of the ribbons.