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Victims Of Priest Abuse In Rome To Urge Cardinals To Choose Wisely

ROME (CBS4) - While many pilgrims on a spiritual journey are flocking to Rome to observe history in the making, others have made the trek here to expose hurt anger and outrage.

Dark clouds hovered above St. Peter's Basilica Sunday, days before the start of the papal conclave. The haunting faces of innocence lost, allegedly stolen at the hands of abusive priests, emerged with the hope the world will watch and the cardinals will listen.

They feel that the cardinals need to select a Pope who will do more to heal the wounds of victims and more to safeguard the children.

"They have to do something, intervene, because there's a problem. We are talking about children, they are completely abandoned before, during and after. They are treated like animals," David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) told CBS4's Michele Gillen in Rome.

Francesco Zanardi said he was abused as a child by a priest. He claims it was reported to a bishop who is now a cardinal and who will vote for the next pope.

"We believe this is part of a pattern, part of a very unhealthy and disturbing
pattern," said Clohessy.

Father Robert Dodaro said says the Vatican needs to recognize the concern over who will vote in the next pope, but he adds the answers isn't simple.

"Who is going to tell a cardinal elector that he may not participate in the conclave? Who is going to make that decision? The outgoing pope decided not to because that would be seen and that really would be interfering with the election of his successor," said Dodaro.

Clohessy said if cardinals tied to sex abuse scandals could sway the vote, victims would be left to wonder why they made their choice.

"We believe that most of the cardinals have ignored or concealed or enabled child sex crimes and that may influence their vote instead of considering which man is best for the good of the church they may well be thinking which man will make sure that my wrongdoing remains hidden," said Clohessy.

Recusing oneself from voting because of ties to sexual misconduct isn't unprecedented. Cardinal Keith O'brien of Scotland did just that earlier this month.

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