Victims of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests demonstrated near the Vatican on Sunday night, holding up placards demanding that the church punish those responsible for cover ups and do more to protect children.
Some 75 victims and their supporters from the United States and several European countries had wanted to march to the Vatican with candles but were blocked by police because they did not have a permit.
The candlelit protest was the first significant demonstration in the shadow of the Vatican by people who had been raped and molested by priests as children, and organizers said it would be repeated until the Holy See takes decisive action to ensure children are safe.
"Today what began as quiet whispers are whispers no more," organizer Gary Bergeron told the crowd, which included about 55 deaf Italians from a notorious Catholic institute for the deaf in Verona where dozens of students say they were sodomized by priests.
Organizers had tried to stage the march on Vatican soil but were forced to hold it nearby after the Holy See denied permission. It is standard Vatican practice to ban non-Vatican-sponsored events from St. Peter's Square.
Sunday's protest kicked off with the unexpected arrival of the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, who said he had wanted to greet the organizers and had prepared a statement he hoped to read. He beat a hasty retreat to his office after a protester shouted "Shame, shame" in Italian.
Lombardi said later he left when he saw "it wasn't going to be easy" to meet with the organizers.
Bergeron met with Lombardi later inside his Vatican office and told him that abuse survivors had been "waiting a lifetime to be able to stand up and speak out."