Vatican-owned properties in Rome are operating as seedy saunas and massage parlours where priests pay for sex, according to the latest in a series of leaked reports to embarrass the Church.
It is also claimed that Vatican officials are allowing buildings to be rented out at peppercorn rents as favours to powerful colleagues and turning a blind eye to shady property deals, as well as allowing addresses to be used as red-light establishments.
Among the properties mentioned in the document, made public by a Vatican mole, are premises in two streets close to the Italian Parliament and a solarium near Piazza Barberini, according to press reports.
One particular Vatican department, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, has been highlighted in the list. It owns hundreds of high-value properties in central Rome, worth hundreds of millions of euros.
Two years ago it emerged the Vatican had purchased a €23m (£16m) share of a Rome apartment block, 2 Via Carducci, which housed the Europa Multiclub, Europe’s biggest gay sauna. Tales of visiting priests were legion, and a section of the sauna’s website promoting special “bear nights” included a video of a hirsute man stripping down and changing into a priest’s outfit.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who held the Vatican’s purse strings under the previous Pope Emeritus Benedict, was said to have been behind the purchase of the block of flats in 2008.
It was also alleged in this month’s leaks that Cardinal Bertone used €200,000 from a medical charity to refurbish his penthouse flat. Meanwhile, sources quoted by Ansa news agency said that Pope Francis hoped to close the leak investigation and draw a line under the affair before the Vatican’s special Jubilee Year, which begins on 8 December. Some observers believe the leaks are part of a campaign to undermine his effort to reform the Curia.
Vatileaks Scandal: Vatican priest arrested in hunt for the Holy See’s enemy within
A priest and a woman who had served on a financial reform commission set up by Pope Francis have been arrested in the probe of yet another leak of confidential information and documents, the Vatican said today.
A statement from the Holy See’s press office said that Vatican prosecutors upheld the arrests of the two, who had been interrogated over the weekend.
It identified the woman as Francesca Chaouqui and the priest as Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda. The priest is still a Vatican employee, while Chaouqui had served on a now-defunct commission that had been set up by Pope Francis in 2013 as part of his drive to reform the Holy See’s finances.
A Vatican spokesman said Vallejo Balda was being held in a jail cell in Vatican City. Chaouqui was allowed to go free because she cooperated in the probe, the Vatican said.
While Pope Francis is intent on modernising the Vatican and making its finances more transparent, the arrests were the latest confirmation that scandal and intrigue still swirl through the largely closed world of the tiny city-state’s bureaucracy.
Current and past papacy efforts to clean up the Vatican have found resistance in the Holy See’s entrenched bureaucracy.
Leaks of confidential documents from retired Pope Benedict XVI’s papers in 2012 led to the arrest and trial of a papal butler and a Vatican computer technician.
“One must keep in mind that the leaking of confidential information and documents is a crime” under a law enacted in the first months of Francis’s papacy, the Vatican statement said.
Last week, Italian news reports said the Vatican police were investigating to see who had tampered with the computer of the top Holy See’s auditor, Libero Milone, who was appointed a few months ago by Pope Francis.
The Vatican declined to say if that incident was related to the two arrests.
Later this week, two books by Italian journalists about the Vatican’s murky world of finances are being published, described by the Vatican as “fruit of a grave betrayal of the trust given by the Pope”.
Without specifying if the latest arrests were linked to those books, the Vatican said Holy See prosecutors are weighing “further measures, involving, if it is the case, international cooperation”.
Some Vatican-watchers have theorised that Benedict decided to be the first pope in hundreds of centuries to resign largely because he was dismayed by the intrigue in the Vatican, and felt that in his advancing years he wouldn’t be up to dealing with the scandals.