Key Vatican department shares building with gay sauna

As cardinals meet to elect a new pope, the Vatican faces negative publicity about buying apartments in a building housing a club that calls itself the No. 1 gay sauna in Italy.

As the College of Cardinals convenes to begin the process of selecting a new pope, the Vatican has a new scandal on its hands.

The BBC reports that an important Vatican department, the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples, paid $26 million in 2008 to buy 20 apartments in a Rome building that also houses the Europa Multiclub Sauna and Gym. The Vatican department, founded in 1622 and responsible for missionary activities, also houses "about 15 priests."

Update: A new pope is selected on the papal conclave's second day

In fact, one of the cardinals who is part of Tuesday's conclave, Cardinal Ivan Dias, lives in the building, just steps from the entrance to the sauna. The Europa Multiclub, which bills itself as “the number one gay sauna in Italy,” boasts cruising areas, steam rooms, and a “bear zone” on its website.

According to the U.K.’s Independent: “The senior Vatican figure sweating the most due to the unlikely proximity of the gay Europa Multiclub is probably Cardinal Ivan Dias, the head of the Congregation for Evangelisation of Peoples, who is due to participate in tomorrow’s election at the Sistine Chapel. This 76-year-old ‘prince of the church’ enjoys a 12-room apartment on the first-floor of the imposing palazzo, at 2 Via Carducci, just yards from the ground floor entrance to the steamy flesh pot. There are 18 other Vatican apartments in the block, many of which house priests.”

So far, the Vatican has refused to comment on its racy neighbors. In the past, the BBC reports, Cardinal Diaz has said that “gays and lesbians can be cured of their ‘unnatural tendencies’ through the ‘sacrament of penance.’”

The Catholic Church believes homosexuality is a sin and has opposed gay rights.

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