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Madonna defies Catholic attacks on her show

ROME -- Pop singer Madonna lashed out at Roman Catholic attempts to halt her show in Italy Monday when she arrived to start a tour in the land of her ancestors.

'If you are sure I am a sinner, let whoever is without sin throw the first stone,' the singer told scores of reporters and television cameramen who mobbed her when she arrived from Paris at Rome's Ciampino military airport.

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Several Catholic organizations in Rome and Turin have demanded that Madonna's performances in Italy be banned on grounds that her show 'is overflowing with vulgarity and blasphemy.' So far the mayors of Rome and Turin have taken no action to ban the performances.

The American singer, whose grandparents emigrated from Italy and who was raised a Catholic, is scheduled to perform twice in the Rome area and once in Turin.

The main cause of the Catholic protest is that Madonna uses crucifixes and sacred symbols in her concerts and videos. Last year Catholic protestors succeeded in stopping the performance of Madonna's video 'Like a Prayer' on Italy's state-run television network.

'I am aware that the Vatican and some Catholic communities are accusing my show of being sinful and blasphemous,' the Madonna said in a handwritten arrival statement. 'But I ask you, fair-minded men and women of the Catholic Church: Come and see my show and judge it for yourselves. My show is not a conventional rock concert but a theatrical presentation of my music and, like the theater, it poses questions, provokes thought and takes you on an emotional journey.

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'This is what I call freedom of speech, freedom of expression and thought,' she said. 'By preventing me from doing the show, you would be saying you do not believe in these freedoms.'

Madonna, dressed in black and sporting a string of pearls, said she was proud of her Italian ancestry and also proud to be an American, because the United States 'gave me the opportunity to become what I am today and believes in freedom of speech and artistic expression.

'My blood boils when I am misunderstood and judged in a disloyal way for my convictions,' she said.

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