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US singer uses Vatican stage to criticise Church

American singer Lauryn Hill deviated from her scheduled performance at the Vatican's Christmas concert on Saturday night, alluding to the clergy sex abuse scandal and calling on Church officials to "repent".

Hill, 28, did not sing the song listed on the program but instead sang a song about social injustice.

The concert was being recorded for broadcast on Christmas Eve. Organisers said Hill's outburst and performance would be cut from the broadcast.

The audience included cardinals, bishops and many elite of Italian society. The event took place in the Paul VI auditorium which the Pope uses for his Wednesday audiences.

"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.

Pope John Paul II, who did not attend, had held a private audience on Friday for the performers and organisers. He offered his thanks to the entertainers, reminding them that the proceeds from the concert will be used to build new churches on the outskirts of Rome.

The Christmas concert is co-sponsored by Prime Time Productions and the Diocese of Rome. This year's concert will be the 11th in a series that has already underwritten the construction of 39 churches for the city. The concert is taped for broadcast on Italian television on Christmas eve. Last year's broadcast reached an estimated audience of 4.2 million.

Other performers included the Algerian singer Khaled, the Italian Gianni Morandi, the Polish Natalia Kukulska, and a Gospel choir from Harlem.

Singer Lauryn Hill Blasts Church at Vatican Concert (Reuters/Yahoo 14/12/03)
Christmas concert stars receive papal thanks in advance (Catholic World News 12/12/03)

Lauryn Hill fansite

15 Dec 2003