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Vinci: Scandal provokes few headlines in Rome

CNN Rome Bureau Chief Alessio Vinci  

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- U.S. Catholic Cardinals were in Rome Monday for talks at the Vatican on how to handle the child sex abuse scandal that has rocked the church. CNN Rome Bureau Chief Alessio Vinci discussed the meeting with anchor Paula Zahn.

VINCI: Most American cardinals have arrived here early this morning at Rome Fiumicino Airport in Rome. They are telling us that they are here on a mission to restore the credibility in the U.S. church, as well as open a frank dialogue with Vatican officials. That dialogue, of course, centering on the recent sex abuse scandals that have rocked the U.S. Catholic Church in recent months.

The cardinals and the top Vatican officials are expected to discuss a series of guidelines and protocols that are directly aimed at what to do with the sex abuse scandals, what to do when the first allegations come out, how to report them to the police, what to do with priests who have been found guilty -- defrock them or move them to different parishes.

All of those issues will have to come up during this discussion in order to come up with a series of guidelines, of protocols, that the U.S. bishops will then eventually address again and perhaps even make public at their U.S. Bishops Conference, which is expected to take place in June in Dallas.

But the word here is, of course, coming from the U.S. cardinals and coming from the Vatican, that these are not going to be binding guidelines. This is just a good opportunity to have a first frank discussion, but nothing really concrete in terms of what exactly will be addressed and what exactly will be done to address the issue will be issued at the end of this meeting.

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Now, one of the bishops who arrived earlier here this morning also told us that his mission, and the mission of the U.S. cardinals here, is also to address the concerns of those who have been hurt.

There is a tremendous media attention in the United States over these sex abuse scandals. The focus has now shifted here in Rome.

Cardinal [Bernard] Law [of Boston] arrived earlier today [Monday]. He was surrounded by a mob of reporters. Cardinal Law again repeating that this meeting is just a consultative meeting. That no one should expect any major announcements out of it. Cardinal Law, of course, being one of the men who is at the very center of this scandal.

There have been increased calls for him to resign. The Los Angeles Times this morning reports that at least one bishop and one cardinal will bring up the issue of his resignation during this meeting. We know that Cardinal Law was here a couple of weeks ago. The issue of resignations was brought up with the pope, but we understand from Vatican officials that at least for the time being, they will not accept his resignation.

CNN: So, Alessio, how is this growing scandal perceived by Italians?

VINCI: Well, first of all, it hasn't been really made the headlines, if you want, in this country. It is interesting to note, for example, that this morning in the Italian press the story about the cardinals meeting is not why are they here and what happened, but more that the way the American media are covering it. And there is certainly a perception here, not just among the American media, but certainly among top Vatican officials, that this is mainly something that has been completely blown out of proportion by the American press.

On the other side, you know, one must also remember that there have been cases of sex abuse scandals here in Europe, in Ireland, in France, in Poland, the native country of the holy father, as well as here in Italy. It just hasn't reached yet the proportion that it has reached in the United States.




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