Vatican Celebrations Overshadowed By Scandals Pope Benedict will address Catholic clerics from around the world at the Vatican during ceremonies marking the end of the church-designated "Year for Priests." Much attention will focus on what the pope says about the stream of child sexual abuse scandals that have been rocking the Catholic Church in recent years.
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Vatican Celebrations Overshadowed By Scandals

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Vatican Celebrations Overshadowed By Scandals

Vatican Celebrations Overshadowed By Scandals

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

And let's go next to Rome, where thousands of Roman Catholic clergy have gathered to mark the end of what the church is calling The Year of the Priest. The celebrations are overshadowed by a worldwide clerical sex abuse scandal. A number of Catholic activists are in Rome demanding radical changes now. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports from Rome.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Welcoming priests from all over the world, the Vatican number two, Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said revelations of hundreds of cases of clerical sex abuse show the need for spiritual renewal.

TARCISIO BERTONE: (Through translator) The Holy Father and I have had to acknowledge the pain caused by the infidelities, some very serious, committed by some members of the clergy that have had a negative impact on the church's credibility. The pope has even spoken of a persecution, not from outside, but stemming from sins within the church.

POGGIOLI: Only 24 hours earlier, a group of American, German, Canadian and English women marched in St. Peter's Square and chanted their demands.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)

WOMEN: Ordain Catholic women, ordain Catholic women.

POGGIOLI: Unidentified Man (Policeman): (Italian spoken)

POGGIOLI: Erin Saiz Hanna is the executive director of the U.S.-based Women's Ordination Conference.

ERIN SAIZ HANNA: The Vatican is all too happy to turn a blind eye when men in its ranks destroy the lives of children and families, but jumps at the chance to excommunicate women who are doing good work and responding to injustice and the needs of their communities.

POGGIOLI: Another group from America has also converged on Rome - members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Spokesman Peter Isely said survivors are expecting an apology by the pope to the world, and the announcement of moves to rectify crimes committed by priests against minors. He acknowledged that some victims are skeptical while others have high expectations.

PETER ISELY: They expect that this pope, this week, is going to make a dramatic, historic announcement that's going to change the future of the Catholic Church forever.

POGGIOLI: For too long, the spokesman said, church officials pressured victims to remain silent.

ISELY: You know, these clerics and these priests that assaulted us may have stolen our bodies, but it's the bishops and the archbishops and the cardinals and the popes that stole our voice.

POGGIOLI: Isely said there are two Pope Benedicts - one who first dismissed the revelations as idle gossip.

ISELY: But then there's the other Pope Benedict, and this is the one that we're hopeful about. The one that said there is no forgiveness without justice.

POGGIOLI: Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.

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