Former Australian PM hails George Pell as a 'saint' as funeral of controversial cardinal sparks protests

Protesters are pictured outside the funeral for Cardinal George Pell at St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney on February 2.

Sydney, Australia (CNN)Cardinal George Pell remains a divisive figure even in death, with angry protests at his funeral in Sydney on Thursday and a former prime minister describing him as a "saint."

The Cardinal's funeral took place at St. Mary's Cathedral, with police forced to intervene as protesters gathered to confront mourners.
Former Australian prime ministers Tony Abbott and John Howard were among those who attended his funeral. Abbott praised the late Cardinal Pell during a eulogy, describing him as a "soldier for truth" and a "saint for our times" in a speech that was met with applause.
    Outside, police separated supporters of Pell from people protesting against the memorial for the Cardinal, who was convicted of child sex abuse before the ruling was overturned in 2020.
      Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the cathedral after Australian police dropped a court bid to block the demonstration. Speeches against Pell and the Catholic Church were given in a nearby park, with some people holding banners and chanting "George Pell go to Hell."
      Three people, two men and one woman, were detained outside St. Mary's Cathedral, New South Wales police said in a statement. Police said no charges were brought against them.
      Police officers are seen outside St. Mary's Cathedral on Thursday.