Thousands of signatures demanding that retired Cardinal Roger Mahony withdraw from voting in upcoming papal conclave were set to be delivered Saturday afternoon to a North Hollywood church, where Mahony has a residence.
The former archbishop of Los Angeles, Mahony was stripped of his public and administrative duties in January for his role in shielding alleged priest child molesters. But that does not affect his standing with Rome.
"It’s a symbolic statement to say we will be heard," said Chris Pumpelly, spokesman for Washington, D.C.-based Catholics United.
"There is pain in this church and we will no longer be silenced. We love the church. We just can’t stand this crisis of leadership."
Mahony lives at St. Charles Borromeo Church, but does not preside over any sacraments, church officials said.
While not legally binding, the petition has garnered 10,000 signatures, Pumpelly said. The petition was expected to be delivered Saturday afternoon, he said.
"We’re saying we want to be heard," Pumpelly said. "There are victims who are hurting; let’s not hurt them anymore."
The petition is to be delivered the same day Mahony was set to testify under oath about the alleged sexual abuse within the Los Angeles archdiocese -- the largest in the nation -- during his guardianship.
Calls to the lawyer in charge of questioning Mahony had not been returned by Saturday afternoon.
Demonstrators want the former archbishop of LA to recuse himself from the papal selection to "avoid bringing further scandal to the church" during a time "that should be joyous," Pumpelly said.
He estimated that between 10 and 20 lay Catholics will be at the demonstration to hand deliver the signatures to the parish office.
The online petition – posted on Catholics-United.org – has been garnering signatures for the past week and has netted signatures from as far away as Australia, Germany and Ireland.
Pumpelly said he plans to join other lay Catholics Sunday to continue gathering signatures from faithful attending Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral.
On Saturday, Mahony tweeted that he was "just a few short hours" away from departing for Rome to join his colleagues in selecting a new pope.
Pope Benedict XVI announced earlier this month that he would step down on Feb. 28, making him the first pope to abdicate since the Middle Ages. The 85-year-old pontiff said his decision was due to "an advanced age" that made it difficult to perform his papal duties.