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Mar 13, 2013 at 01:55pm IST

Papal conclave: Topless women protest outside Vatican

Vatican: Police wrestled two topless women to the ground during a brief protest in St Peter's Square outside the Vatican on Tuesday after cardinals withdrew into the Sistine Chapel to begin the process of electing a new pope.

Witnesses said that at least two women took part in the protest, which followed an earlier demonstration in which women campaigners released a pink smoke flare on a hill above the Vatican.

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Feminist groups have long demanded a greater role for women in the Catholic Church, which only allows men to be ordained as priests.

Papal conclave: Topless women protest outside Vatican

An Femen group activist is detained by police officers following a protest against the pope outside St. Peter's Square as cardinals took an oath in the Sistine Chapel at the start the conclave to elect a new pope at the Vatican on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

The identity of the women in Tuesday's protest was not immediately clear. Police officers on the scene declined to give any details.

Last month, a small group from the Ukrainian women's rights group Femen staged a similar topless protest in Milan as former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi cast his vote in Italy's general election.