Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral has been vandalised, with the words “rapist” and “no justice” graffitied across its doors a day after Cardinal George Pell was acquitted on child sex abuse charges.
“Rot in hell, Pell” was also scrawled across the doors of the cathedral at the centre of allegations the cardinal abused two choirboys in the 1990s.
The words “the law protects the powerful” were also spray-painted on the cathedral forecourt.
Meanwhile, a tricycle, ribbons and a paper bag emblazoned with a biblical quote were left at the gates of the monastery in Melbourne’s east where Cardinal Pell spent his first night of freedom on Tuesday.
Cardinal Pell left the monastery on Wednesday morning, headed for Sydney.
Nine Network journalists filmed him at a service station near Wangaratta, less than 100 kilometres from the NSW border, on Wednesday afternoon.
The cardinal was put up by the Sydney archdiocese after he returned from Rome to fight the abuse charges, having most recently served as Archbishop of Sydney.
He also has family in NSW.
His swift departure from Melbourne came as police investigate the vandalism at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
The High Court ruled on Tuesday there was insufficient evidence to convict Cardinal Pell, quashing five convictions. He was freed from Barwon Prison, south-west of Melbourne, within hours.
Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli said he wasn’t surprised by the vandalism.
“There’s such strong emotions around all of these matters,” he told Melbourne’s 3AW radio on Wednesday
He said he hoped people would consider the High Court judgment and see the decision in its legal context, but expects people will keep their original positions about the cardinal.
The release of Cardinal Pell, 78, comes in a significant week in the Christian calendar – Holy Week, which marks the end of Lent and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.
The coronavirus outbreak means the cardinal must go into self-isolation and cannot celebrate Easter with any congregation. Any thoughts of a quick return to Rome have also been scuppered by international travel bans.
The cardinal’s previous position as Vatican Treasurer was filled in his absence, putting him effectively in retirement.
Cardinal Pell’s former private secretary Father Mark Withoos told Sydney’s 2GB radio that if it weren’t for the coronavirus crisis “perhaps those involved in this terrible miscarriage of justice would be forced to resign”.
Premier Daniel Andrews has refused to comment on the High Court’s decision. But, on Wednesday, he said people, particularly Catholics, had to face the fact there were people who had moved predators across parishes.
“Others who knew that it was going on facilitated it and whether they’re in jail or not, they’ll have to go to their maker knowing they did those sorts of things,” he told radio station Triple M.
Cardinal Pell is yet to speak publicly but released a statement saying a serious injustice had been remedied and he bore no ill will toward his accuser.
The accuser, now a man in his 30s, came forward after the death of the second choirboy in 2014.
“I respect the decision of the High Court. I accept the outcome,” he has said.
He also hopes the outcome won’t discourage child sexual abuse survivors from coming forward, reassuring them “most people recognise the truth when they hear it”.
The Vatican welcomed Cardinal Pell’s acquittal, praising him for waiting “for the truth to be ascertained”.
Pope Francis offered his Tuesday morning mass for those who suffer from unjust sentences, though he did not mention Cardinal Pell by name.
“I would like to pray today for all those people who suffer unjust sentences resulting from intransigence (against them),” the Pope said, speaking before the start of the mass.