Rome – 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 that will 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 December 8.
Some observers believe the leaks are part of a campaign to undermine his effort to reform the Curia.
One senior figure, Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda, and another official have been arrested by Vatican police over the leaks.
On Tuesday it emerged that four cardinals had also been questioned.