Published on Sunday, December 14, 2003 by Reuters
Singer Lauryn Hill Blasts Church at Vatican Concert
by Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY - American singer Lauryn Hill, from a stage used by the Pope, shocked Catholic officials at a concert by telling them to "repent" and alluding to sexual abuse of children by U.S. priests.
The broadside came during the recording Saturday night of a Christmas concert attended by top Vatican cardinals, bishops and many elite of Italian society, witnesses said.
Hill made her comments when taking the microphone to sing at the concert, held in the same huge hall and stage Pope John Paul uses for his weekly general audiences and other events. The Pope was not present.
"I did not come here to celebrate the birth of Christ with you but to ask you why you are not in mourning for his death inside this place," she said according to a transcript of her statement run by the Rome newspaper La Repubblica.
A spokesman for Prime Time Productions, the concert's organizers, said the newspaper's quotes were accurate.
"God has been a witness to the corruption of his leadership, of the exploitation and abuses ... by the clergy," she said.
This was an apparent reference to the scandal in the United States last year over the sexual abuse of children by priests.
Hill told the crowd to seek blessings "from God not men" and said she did "not believe in representatives of God on earth."
A few feet away in the front row sat five cardinals, including Edmund Szoka, American governor of Vatican City.
Hill, 28, did not sing the song listed on the program but instead sang a song about social injustice.
Organizers said Hill's outburst and performance would most probably be cut from the show when it is aired on Christmas Eve.
Hill shot to fame in the mid-1990s with band The Fugees, whose album "The Score" sold 17 million copies, to become one of the biggest hip-hop chart successes of all time.
She went on to win five Grammy awards for her debut solo album, "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill." She has a son and daughter by Rohan Marley, the son of Reggae legend Bob Marley.
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd