By Elise Harris
The decision to open a McDonald’s restaurant inside a Vatican property just around the corner from St. Peter’s Square has been met harsh criticism from cardinals who live in the building.
But the man in charge of rolling out the project says the plan is moving forward despite disagreement.
Dubbed by some as “McVatican,” the new restaurant will be located in a Vatican property on the intersection of Rome’s Via del Mascherino and Via Borgo Pio, literally around the corner from the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica.
After having received numerous requests from different companies to move into the empty space, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which oversees the Vatican’s assets, decided to rent it to McDonald’s for 30,000 euros a month.
In an interview with Italian newspaper La Reppublica, Italian Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, president emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life, called the deal “a controversial, perverse decision to say the least.”
The presence of the fast-food chain so close to the Vatican, he said, “is not at all respectful of the architectural and urban traditions of one of the most characteristic squares overlooking the colonnade of St. Peter visited every day by thousands of pilgrims and tourists.”
Cardinal Sgreccia called the deal “a business decision that, moreover, ignores the culinary traditions of the Roman restaurant.”
The “mega sandwiches” on the McDonald’s menu are a hazard to peoples’ health, he said, adding that because of this, the “questionable” activity shouldn’t even be a consideration for Vatican property.
In addition to Cardinal Sgreccia, who rumored to have written a letter of protest to the Pope, other cardinals living in the building have also voiced their discontent. Concern has arisen over what will become of the homeless who have been living outside the building, some of them for years, but who will be forced to leave once the restaurant is constructed.
Cardinal Sgraccia told La Reppublica that in addition to being a “disgrace,” the McDonald’s would have been better used as a space used for “activities in defense of the needy in the area, hospitable areas of welcome and help for those who suffer, as the Holy Father teaches.”
However, despite the aggravation of cardinals living inside the building, Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, president of APSA, has been unsympathetic, and said he doesn’t see what the problem is.
Also speaking to La Reppublica Oct. 15, Cardinal Calcagno responded to criticism surrounding the McDonalds by saying that everything was done “in respect of the law and that there will be nothing done which will go against the current rules, tradition and interests of the Holy See.”
“Above all there is respect for the law. Then the rest comes,” he said, explaining that APSA is “not prepared to make any step backward because everything is in order.”
Cardinal Calcagno said he is unaware of any letters supposedly written to the Pope. While he is aware of how his brother cardinals feel, “we are free people” and everyone has “the right to express their own views,” he said.
“We can’t all be in agreement on everything,” he said, explaining that as president of APSA, “I do not see anything negative in this initiative. The technical departments of APSA have felt the offer of the American company executives fair and just. I do not see any scandal.”