St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney where the plaque in honour of Pell is situated. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett.
St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney where the plaque in honour of Pell is situated. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett.

Church’s defiant act in favour of Pell

Even with him being found guilty of raping a child, one of Australia's most prominent cathedrals is keeping the faith with the man who was once its archbishop.

St Mary's, Sydney's primary Catholic cathedral, will keep a plaque of Cardinal George Pell within its grounds despite calls for it to be taken down.

The defiant act comes hours after the former Archbishop of Sydney was found guilty of four charges, including the rape of a boy and molestation of another.

He is facing a pre-sentencing hearing on Wednesday.

St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney where the plaque in honour of Pell is situated. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett.
St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney where the plaque in honour of Pell is situated. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett.

St Mary's refusal to remove the plaque comes in contrast to the decision of Prime Minister Scott Morrison who said on Wednesday Pell would be stripped of his Order of Australia honour and another Catholic institution that has already removed the cardinal's name from its buildings.

Pell's Sydney plaque sits in an area of the cathedral that commemorates former archbishops.

Pell was the Archbishop of Sydney from 2001 to 2010 before he was called to the Vatican for other duties that led him to become the world's third most powerful Catholic.

In a statement to the Sydney Morning Herald, a spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney said the church had "no reason to change arrangements" and remove the plaque while Pell moved forward with his appeal.

However, in Victoria, a boys' school isn't waiting for the outcome of the appeal.

St Patrick's College in Ballarat is a Catholic single-sex school where Pell was a student in the 1940s and 1950s. A music and art wing was named in his honour.

The school's principal John Crowley said the name had been excised with the students in mind.

"In honouring former students we need to make sure that we are providing to our boys those role models that have exhibited the highest possible standards," Mr Crowley told the ABC.

"We recognise Cardinal Pell may appeal and reserve right to reconsider that decision, but as it stands at the moment, we believe it's untenable that students walk through the building that carries Pell's name when a jury has found he is guilty of offences relating to child sexual abuse."

Pell has a long history in the regional Victorian city. He was born in Ballarat in 1941 and in the 1960s was ordained a priest in the diocese where he remained for several decades.

The now-removed Rolf Harris plaque on St George’s Terrace in Perth. Picture THEO FAKOS
The now-removed Rolf Harris plaque on St George’s Terrace in Perth. Picture THEO FAKOS

Removing a plaque of someone found guilty of paedophilia has precedence. British-based Australian musician and comedian Rolf Harris once had a plaque dedicated to him cemented into the pavement of the Perth CBD thoroughfare of St George's Terrace.

Harris was among around 150 notable West Australians who had a commemorative plaque laid in their honour.

However, after his conviction for indecently assaulting girls in the UK between 1968 and 1986, the plaque was removed by the city council.

The town of Bassendean in Western Australia, where Harris was born, also removed all his artworks and plaques dedicated to him following his imprisonment.

Pell celebrates mass in Sydney's St. Mary's Cathedral. Picture: AP Photo/Rick Rycroft.
Pell celebrates mass in Sydney's St. Mary's Cathedral. Picture: AP Photo/Rick Rycroft.


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