* Pilgrims stunned by scandal
* Fear could cause lasting damage to Church
* Stand by pope
By Silvia Aloisi
VATICAN CITY, May 29 Clerics and pilgrims
visiting St Peter's basilica on Tuesday expressed shock over a
scandal that has shaken the Vatican and led to the arrest of the
pope's butler, fearing it would hurt both the pontiff and the
"It's awful and very sad that something like that can happen
right at the heart of the Vatican," said David Kaberia, a priest
from Meru in Kenya, standing under the sun in a queue snaking
through half of St Peter's Square to tour one of the holiest
sites of Roman Catholicism.
"This is an inside job by greedy people and I think it will
inevitably affect the Church worldwide because this is the
centre of the Church's power," he told Reuters.
The scandal exploded last week when, within a few days, the
head of the Vatican's own bank was sacked, the pope's butler was
arrested over leaks of sensitive documents and a book was
published alleging conspiracies among cardinals and corruption
in the Church's financial dealings with Italian business.
"This is a warning for all of us in the Chuch community,
that we should only look after spiritual things and not be
corrupted by matters of money, career and power," said Father
Francesco, a priest frorm Florence.
Italian press reports quoting leakers said the butler, who
had access to the pope's private apartment, was merely a
scapegoat in a behind-the-scenes struggle for power in the Holy
See and that the plot went much higher and wider than him.
"I am not so shocked by the idea that bad apples also exist
in the Church, people who are after money and influence," said a
teacher from Pordenone, in northern Italy, who gave her name
only as Lucia.
"What pains me is that it can get so close to the pope, it's
an attack on him while he should be untouchable," she said.
Critics of Pope Benedict say a lack of strong leadership has
opened the door to infighting among his powerful aides, and
potentially to the corruption alleged in some of the leaked
FAITHFUL STAND BY POPE
But nuns and priests mingling with thousands of lay visitors
to catch a glimpse of St Peter's imposing dome, designed by
Italy's greatest Renaissance masters including Michelangelo,
stood by the ageing pontiff and said they hoped he could quickly
draw a line under the worst crisis in his papacy.
"We all feel involved because we are a big family. But as
the Bible teaches us, in every family there is a Judas, there is
temptation and betrayal, but also repentance and forgiveness"
said Estrella Villaran, a Peruvian nun with the Franciscan
Sisters of the Sacred Heart.
"This is a test for the pope, but it also an opportunity to
relaunch the church and make it stronger," she said, clutching a
wooden cross in her hand.
Jay Finelli, a diocesan priest from Rhode Island in the
United States, dismissed concerns that the scandal could cause
lasting damage to the Holy See.
"The Church is made up of saints and sinners, so we just
have to pray and God will sort it all out," he said.
"We have been around for 2,000 years. Of course people must
be wondering what's going on, but nothing can destroy the
Church. The gates of hell will not prevail."
Even non-believers who came to admire the frescoes of the
Sistine Chapel were surprised by news of the butler's arrest,
with one Californian tourist, Kay Prichard, comparing it to the
intrigues of Dan Brown's bestseller "The Da Vinci Code".
Others said they were worried, but for different reasons.
"I just hope it does not hurt business here," said Josef, an
illegal street hawker from Afghanistan who promises tourists he
can help them jump the long queue for a guided tour of St
Peter's Basilica for 45 euros.
(Reporting By Silvia Aloisi; editing by Barry Moody)