ROME – Italian paramilitary police blocked a boulevard leading to the Vatican to prevent a march Sunday by some 100 survivors of clergy sex abuse from reaching St. Peter’s Square, but later allowed two protesters to leave letters from the abused at the Holy See’s doorstep.

The two also left a dozen stones near the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square to mark a symbolic path so other survivors might know they have company in their suffering.

The candlelit protest was the first significant demonstration in the shadow of the Vatican by people who had been raped and molested by priests as children, and organizers said it would be repeated until the Holy See takes decisive action to ensure children are safe.

“Today what began as quiet whispers are whispers no more,” organizer Gary Bergeron told the crowd, which included about 55 deaf Italians from a Catholic institute for the deaf in Verona where dozens of students say they were sodomized by priests.

Organizers had tried to stage the march on Vatican soil but were forced to hold it nearby after the Holy See denied permission. It is standard Vatican practice to ban non-Vatican-sponsored events from St. Peter’s Square.

Sunday’s protest kicked off with the unexpected arrival of the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, who said he had wanted to greet the organizers and had prepared a statement he hoped to read. He beat a hasty retreat to his office after a protester shouted “Shame, shame” in Italian.

Lombardi said he left when he saw “it wasn’t going to be easy” to meet with the organizers.

Bergeron met with Lombardi later inside his Vatican office and told him that abuse survivors had been “waiting a lifetime to be able to stand up and speak out.”

After the demonstration, Bergeron accompanied several other survivors to speak with Lombardi and tell them their stories. They said they asked Lombardi to pass along their request to speak with other Vatican officials; Lombardi said he listened to their concerns and reasons for gathering.