A small group of reform-minded Catholics held an outdoor prayer service Saturday afternoon in the shadow of the head church of the Philadelphia Archdiocese to condemn the latest revelations of clergy sex abuse and cover-ups.

Last month, an explosive, long-awaited Pennsylvania grand jury report identified more than 300 predator priests in six of the state's Catholic dioceses and accused church officials of hiding the abuse for more than seven decades.

The vigil was one of many planned nationwide, according to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Women's Ordination Conference, one of three groups sponsoring the local demonstration, held in Sister Cities Park across from the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.

"We come together today as God's people, in need of openness, in need of justice, in need of truth," the 18 protesters said, reading from a handout. "We say now: Time's Up. No more! Never again!"

"For abusers and those involved in cover-ups," the group prayed "that they may be moved to accept responsibility, do penance, and seek forgiveness for their crimes."

The vigil came on the heels of a lawsuit filed Friday against the Diocese of Pittsburgh by a California woman. She alleges that Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua groped her when he was a bishop and she was a student at a Pittsburgh-area elementary school in the 1980s. Bevilacqua left the Pittsburgh Diocese in 1988, when he was named archbishop of Philadelphia, where he became a cardinal. He died in 2012.

Tina Shelton of Havertown marches with her “Times Up” sign to a planning meeting after the prayer service and vigil outside Cathedral Basilica SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia Saturday.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON
Tina Shelton of Havertown marches with her “Times Up” sign to a planning meeting after the prayer service and vigil outside Cathedral Basilica SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia Saturday.

On Saturday in Vatican City, Pope Francis told newly ordained bishops that they must work to fight the clerical culture that has fueled the scandal rocking his papacy. The pope himself has been accused by a lone archbishop of covering up for a now-former U.S. cardinal who was accused of molesting children and adult seminarians.

"I pray for Pope Francis," Larry Werner of West Chester said during the Philadelphia prayer service. "Pope Francis is up against it."

Zach Johnson, who has been organizing vigils as executive director of the reform group Call to Action, flew in from Minneapolis to attend the Philadelphia service. "I give thanks for the thousands of Catholics like us who are gathering around the country," he said.

Call to Action is part of a coalition of reform groups that have launched a campaign called "Times Up: Catholics Demand Truth." Its platform of goals includes civil investigations of clergy abuse in every state, eliminating statutes of limitations on lawsuits, the resignations of credibly accused clergy, the ordination of married men and women, and acceptance of LGBTQ relationships and gay marriage.