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British woman 'was raped by priest'

A British woman spoke out about her rape ordeal at the hands of a priest, during a protest by clergy sex abuse victims near the Vatican.

Sue Cox, 63, from Warwickshire, was among around 100 survivors from a dozen countries, including Italy, the US, Ireland, the Netherlands and Australia, at Sunday's candlelit protest.

Italian paramilitary police blocked a boulevard leading to the Vatican to prevent marchers reaching St Peter's Square, but later allowed two protesters to leave letters from victims at the Holy See's doorstep.

The two also left a dozen stones near the obelisk in St Peter's square to mark a symbolic path so other survivors might know they had company in their suffering.

At a briefing before the march, Ms Cox was among participants who stood up one by one to tell how their lives had been destroyed by the abuse they suffered as children.

"For 50 years I thought I was the only person in the entire world that had been abused by a Catholic priest," she said. Ms Cox clarified herself "raped by a Catholic priest, not abused, because what he did was rape me and rape is different".

"It's taken 50 years for me to find my voice. But now I've found it, I want to continue to speak on behalf of people who maybe aren't able to speak or have not yet been able to face the fear and the guilt and shame that survivors feel."

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. Organisers said it would be repeated until the Holy See took decisive action to ensure children were safe.

"Today what began as quiet whispers are whispers no more," organiser Gary Bergeron told the crowd, which included around 55 Italians from a notorious Catholic institute for the deaf in Verona where dozens of students said they were raped by priests.

Despite Vatican spokesman the Rev Federico Lombardi being unable to greet the organisers at the protest, Mr Bergeron met Mr 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".

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