VATICAN CITY, Jan. 4 (UPI) — Cardinals and residents of Vatican City are decidedly not “lovin’ it” that a McDonald’s opened around the corner from St. Peter’s Square on Friday, but there’s not much they can do about it.
The decision by the Vatican to lease space to McDonald’s in the holy city has been controversial since last year, but with the golden arches erected and signs directing tourists toward its doors, a Big Mac-sized wound has been reopened.
“It’s a controversial, perverse decision to say the least,” Cardinal Elio Sgreccia told La Repubblica in October. “Instead of a Golden Arches near the heart of the Roman Catholic Church, the space should be used to house entities which help the needy, in line with the pope’s call for a ‘poor church for the poor.'”
Despite objections from many who say selling such “unhealthy” food near a place like the Vatican is a “disgrace,” the Vatican signed the lease with McDonald’s — most of the company’s restaurants are franchised but the Vatican City location is company-owned — in October for a 1,765-square-foot space for rent of $31,000 per month.
“The restaurant is not inside the Vatican,” a McDonald’s spokeswoman told the Washington Post. “It is located in a popular tourist area outside the Vatican that already has many other restaurants, bars and retail shops. As is the case whenever McDonald’s operates near historic sites anywhere in Italy, this restaurant has been fully adapted with respect to the historical environment.”
Sgreccia suggested that, in addition to objecting to the food served by the restaurant, adding the bright yellow arches and design of the restaurant is not “respectful of the architectural and urban traditions” of the area.
That criticism is not entirely new, though, as McDonald’s previously sued the city of Florence after an application to build there was turned down — over concerns for “traditional” businesses in the area.
While McDonald’s said it has worked to stay in-line with the historic, venerated design of Vatican City, it is not the only somewhat garish U.S.-based company set to open there: A Hard Rock Cafe was recently approved to replace a religious bookstore near the papal residence, as well.