ROME — The economically-ailing Vatican has inaugurated a 120,000-square-foot shopping mall to cater to the millions of tourists and pilgrims that visit it each year.
After eating millions of dollars in losses on bad investments and running a serious deficit for several years in a row, the Vatican has opened the “Caput Mundi” Mall a stone’s throw from Saint Peter’s Basilica as an added revenue stream to supplement its flagging finances.
The new mall boasts over 40 boutiques featuring select Italian and foreign brands and includes clothing, accessories, jewelry, toys, cosmetics, and an exclusive and innovative food hall complete with a sushi bar.
Caput Mundi is adorned with an eclectic collection of contemporary artworks, including five original pieces by gay icon Andy Warhol.
The irony of the Vatican’s first shopping mall being launched during the pontificate of Pope Francis, a caustic critic of capitalism who has called for “a poor church for the poor,” has been lost on no one.
Earlier this month, the pontiff abolished housing discounts for cardinals, bishops, and other Vatican officials, citing a need to increase “revenues from the management of real estate assets.”
From that point on, if prelates or Vatican department heads wish to continue living in Vatican apartments or other lodgings, they will be required to pay market prices, the Holy See declared.
According to Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, Pope Francis has surrounded himself with a group of opportunistic advisers and informants who are lining their pockets at the Church’s expense.
“The biggest danger to the Pope these days are these opportunists, careerists and false friends who are concerned not for the good of the Church, but for their own financial interests and self-advancement,” Müller said in 2017.
The Vatican receives some four million visitors annually but projects an influx of 35 million tourists and pilgrims for the Jubilee Year in 2025.
The mall is located on the top floor of a massive parking garage on Rome’s Janiculum Hill built for the Jubilee Year of 2000, which previously housed a coffee bar and cafeteria for the busloads of tourists and pilgrims who arrive at the Vatican.
The parking structure is administered by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Evangelization, which leased the space to a Rome-based firm called Gasak.
A Gasak spokesperson said the mall should become “one of the most important points of reference for shopping in the center of Rome, a boutique experience where the user feels he or she’s at the capital of the world.”