The priest who presided over the funeral Mass of Ned Kelly — more than 130 years after he was hanged for murder — said he has received a torrent of abuse for granting the infamous outlaw a Catholic church service.
The notorious bushranger, who was the son of Tipperary-born John “Red” Kelly, was finally granted his dying wish yesterday when he was given a Catholic burial in Australia. It followed a memorial Mass in Wangaratta, Victoria, last Friday, which more than 300 mourners attended.
But the decision to grant him a Catholic farewell just two years after his remains were exhumed and identified has triggered an outcry Down Under, where many see Kelly as a cold-blooded killer.
Monsignor John White, who led the requiem Mass and burial, admitted he had received abusive phone calls and messages as soon as it was revealed he would deliver Kelly’s liturgy.
But he said the service was about “Edward Kelly, a baptised Catholic who was entitled to the dignified burial he was denied following his hanging at Melbourne Gaol, when his decapitated body was entombed in the dirt with no family members present”.
He said: “Today, we’re righting that wrong. I speak simply as a priest who resides at this requiem Mass ... about a man who occupies a unique place in the Australian story.
“Of all Australians, Ned is without doubt one of the most famous, some would say infamous, and there lies the great divide in society.”
A small group of Kelly’s descendants escorted the bushranger’s remains to the Greta cemetery where he was buried in a deep and reportedly concrete-sealed pit beside his mother, Ellen.
Kelly’s last wish was to be buried in consecrated ground in the family plot at Greta, not far from where he had his final shootout with police.
But after his execution, his remains were thrown into a pit and it was not until 2011 that DNA testing confirmed the bones — except his skull, which is still missing — were his.
“We’ve brought him home, back to his family and back to the area that he loved, we’ve given him his final wish, so that makes us quite happy,” said Joanne Griffiths, great-grand-daughter of Kelly’s sister Kate. “We’ve made a real effort to ensure that he’s going to be safe and he’s surrounded by family and friends, which is the way he would’ve wanted it.”
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