St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne was vandalised overnight on Wednesday, hours after Cardinal George Pell was acquitted by Australia’s High Court of a sexual abuse conviction and released from prison.
The door to the cathedral was spray painted with a cartoon image of a devil, along with the message “ROT IN HELL, PELL.” Other doors were daubed with upside-down crosses, the words “NO JUSTICE,” “PAEDO RAPIST,” and “The law protects the powerful.”
Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne told Australian media that while he was upset about the vandalism, he was “not entirely surprised.”
“There remains such strong emotions around all of these matters,” Comensoli told Australian news network 3AW.
Images taken of the cathedral showed police in attendance and that at least some of the graffiti had been covered up with a black bin liner.
A tricycle was tied to the fence of the monastery in a Melbourne suburb where Pell spent his first night of freedom after more than 400 days in prison.
“I think everyone is going to continue to hold their own particular position on all of this,” said Comensoli, adding that he hoped “people in the cooler light of the evening will consider what the High Court judgment said and see that in its legal context.”
The director of the office of the Archbishop of Melbourne told Australian media that security around the cathedral would be increased in the following days to prevent further acts of vandalism.
Pell was convicted in December 2018 of sexually assaulting two choirboys at the Melbourne Cathedral in 1996. On April 7, the Australian High Court unanimously ruled that the evidence presented during the trial would not have allowed the jury to avoid reasonable doubt and ordered Pell’s acquittal and release after more than 400 days in prison.
The High Court’s Tuesday decision marked the end of a nearly three-year legal process which began in June 2017, when the cardinal was charged with several counts of sexual assault dating back decades. The majority of these charges were dropped before they could be brought to trial.
Pell, who was most recently the Archbishop of Sydney prior to leaving Australia in 2014 for a position of Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy, has returned to Sydney after his release from prison.