Cardinals raise hell over latest Vatican tenant - a McDonald's

McDonald's received a lukewarm reception when it opened a new branch within sight of Pope Francis's window, but now the fast food giant seems to have taken on board one of his cherished principles - feeding the hungry. VIDEO: REUTERS
The McDonald's outlet in the Roman district of Borgo is just a stone's throw from St Peter's Square. Cardinal Elio Sgreccia says the space occupied by the restaurant should have been used to help the needy.
The McDonald's outlet in the Roman district of Borgo is just a stone's throw from St Peter's Square. Cardinal Elio Sgreccia says the space occupied by the restaurant should have been used to help the needy.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ROME • McDonald's is dishing up "hallowed" hamburgers after the Vatican backed it in a fight with cardinals over a new outlet a stone's throw from St Peter's Square.

Cardinals - including a group living above the Vatican-owned site - had warned against the deal.

One cardinal even wrote to the Pope to slam a commercial decision reportedly set to bring €30,000 (S$45,150) a month into the Vatican's coffers. Locals fear the move will ruin a historic area.

The restaurant at the corner of Borgo Pio and Via del Mascherino is in the Roman district of Borgo, which leads to the Vatican City.

The plan to open a restaurant was met with derision when it was announced in October last year.

In an interview with La Repubblica, Cardinal Elio Sgreccia called the restaurant's arrival a "disgrace" and said the space should have been used to help the needy.

The protests fell on deaf ears and the new branch opened last Friday after the site, which covers 538 sq m, was rented to the restaurant chain by the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, which is in charge of the Vatican's real estate.

While the outlet lies outside the Holy See's walls, those popping in for a burger and french fries have a good view of the papal apartment windows.

Vatican officials also approved the addition of a Hard Rock Cafe on Via della Conciliazione, the main boulevard leading to St Peter's Square. It would replace a religious bookstore.

The new outlet is not McDonald's first run-in over a branch location in Italy.

The fast-food giant made headlines in November last year after filing a US$20 million (S$29 million) lawsuit against Florence for blocking a proposed outlet in the city's most revered square.

The chain wanted to open a branch in the historic Piazza del Duomo, one of the most visited places in Europe, but Florence's centre-left mayor Dario Nardella said that while McDonald's "has the right to submit an application... we also have the right to say no".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2017, with the headline 'Cardinals raise hell over latest Vatican tenant - a McDonald's'. Print Edition | Subscribe