Outburst viewed as publicity stunt

ROME — Hip-hop singer Lauryn Hill blasted the Catholic Church from a stage customarily used by the Pope on Saturday when she accused high-ranking Holy See officials of being “corrupt” and said they should “repent” during an impromptu speech before her scheduled performance in a Vatican Christmas concert.

Hill’s outburst — widely perceived as a publicity stunt and largely ignored — apparently referred to the scandal involving sexual abuse of children by U.S. priests.

“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,” Hill said when she was given a microphone to sing.

Sitting in the front rows of the 7,500-seat concert hall used by the Pope for his weekly general audiences were top Vatican cardinals, bishops and Edmund Szoka, the American governor of Vatican City. The pope was not present. The concert was being taped for airing on Christmas Eve by Mediaset’s flagship Canale 5 station.

“God has been a witness to the corruption of his leadership, to the exploitation and abuses. It is the least one can say about the clergy,” added the Grammy-winning singer. Men sin, and it is they who are responsible for corruption. Therefore you must repent, repent.”

Far from causing a stir, Hill’s broadside did not immediately register with the largely Italian audience.

Hill then departed from the program and performed the songs “Damnable Heresies” and “Social Drugs.”

A representative for Mediaset said Hill’s outburst and performance would probably be edited out of the broadcast. Footage from the stunt is likely to soon surface elsewhere.

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