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Singer blasts Vatican at performance

VATICAN CITY -- Singer Lauryn Hill, speaking from a stage often used by Pope John Paul II, shocked Catholic officials at a concert Saturday night by telling them to "repent" and alluding to sexual abuse of children by US priests.

The announcement was made during the recording of a Christmas concert attended by top Vatican cardinals, bishops, and many elite from Italian society, witnesses said.

Hill, a US citizen, made her comments when taking the microphone to sing at the concert, held in the huge hall that John Paul uses for his weekly general audiences. 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," Hill said, according to a transcript run by the Rome newspaper La Repubblica.

"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.

A spokesman for Prime Time Productions, the concert's organizers, said the newspaper's quotes were accurate.

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, the American prelate and governor of Vatican City.

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

Organizers said Hill's remarks and performance would probably be cut from the show when it is aired on Christmas Eve.

Hill shot to fame in the mid-1990s with the band The Fugees, whose album "The Score" sold 17 million copies to become one of the biggest hip-hop chart successes of all time.

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