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What Lauryn Hill told the Vatican

From Jeremy Charles In Rome
The London Mirror - December 16, 2003

SOUL singer Lauryn Hill stunned Vatican officials at a Christmas concert by launching an attack on paedophile priests.

Former Fugees star Hill, 28, said she accepted her invitation only so she could protest at child sex scandals in the United States.

She told the 7,000 crowd: "I am sorry if I am about to offend some of you. I did not accept my invitation to celebrate with you the birth of Christ. Instead I ask you why you are not in mourning for him in this place?

"I want to ask you, what have you got to say about the lives you have broken?

"What about the families who were expecting God and instead were cheated by the Devil?

"Who feels sorry for them, the men, women and children damaged psychologically, emotionally and mentally by the sexual perversions and abuse carried out by the people they believed in?

"Holy God is a witness to the corruption of your leadership, of the exploitation and abuses which are the minimum that can be said for the clergy. There is no acceptable excuse to defend the church."

There was silence for several minutes from the audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican as many of them could not speak English.

There were cries of "Enough" and "Shame" from those who understood while one or two whistled and jeered before she picked up her guitar and sang.

After her performance her comments were translated for Cardinal Camillo Ruini, head of the Italian Bishops Conference, who was sitting in the front row - and he walked out in protest.

No one at the Vatican would comment yesterday on Hill's outburst.

But Monsignor Rino Fisichella, one of the organisers of the traditional concert, said: "It was in poor taste and very bad mannered. It showed a complete lack of respect for her invitation and for the place where she had been invited to perform.

"However I am not going to respond with insults to an insult. It's a shame that it happened."

Pope John Paul II was not at the event but had earlier met the artists and a special greeting from him was played during the performance.

Hill flew back to New York last night unrepentant. She said: "What I said was the truth. Is telling the truth bad manners? What I asked was the church to repent for what has happened."

Hill, who is married to reggae legend Bob Marley's son Rohan, set a record for female artists in 1999 when she won five Grammy awards for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which sold more than six million copies.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests