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Kennett praises Pell's predecessor in Melbourne


Former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett has paid tribute to a former Archbishop of Melbourne, Sir Frank Little, in the context of an attack on his successor Dr George Pell.

"Frank Little to me was a godly man," he says. "In the sense that I don't think there are many godly religious leaders, but I always related very strongly to Frank as a wonderful leader of the church. I enjoyed going to services with Frank Little presiding because I felt there was a godly aura surrounding him."

He told the Nine Network's Sunday program that he would be happy to have Sir Frank officiate at his funeral, and that he has considered converting to the Catholic faith.

Kennett, an Anglican, regretted that Dr Pell had denied his wish to receive communion while attending Catholic services.

"I think when George Pell saw me at his church the first time taking communion, he didn't withdraw the wafer from my mouth on that occasion, but he did send a message to me thereafter that I was not to take communion again."

But Mr Kennett expressed his admiration for Pell's decisiveness, telling the program that he was not pleased to see George Pell leave, because "in a sea of sameness, which I think is affecting religions generally, George Pell stands out, for better or for worse, as a man of conviction".

Meanwhile Archbishop Pell has admitted on the same program that there are "small pockets" of homosexual culture among priests in Melbourne.

Archbishop Pell rejected as a "slur" and "insulting" the suggestion that a group of priests close to him were known as the Spice Girls because of their keen pursuit of high liturgical practices involving incense and rejected any suggestion the group was gay.

Mary Helen Woods, daughter of well known Victorian Catholic, the late Bob Santamaria, said she saw the group of priests as "girly", but not gay.

"George, being a sort of charismatic figure, has a close circle of good friends amongst the clergy and amongst the young seminarians," she said.

Archbishop Pell said: "They love their ceremonies and they love their incense and they love dressing up, and if they want to describe that inner circle as the Spice Girls I can sort of see where the comment's coming from. ... But I emphasise we are talking about a very small area of clerical life."


The Age/AAP


14-May-01