Vatican properties used as saunas and massage parlours

Properties in Rome that are owned by the Vatican are being run as saunas and massage parlours, sometimes used by Catholic priests, according to more explosive leaks in the Italian press. 

The reports also allege that church-owned buildings are being let at low rents to powerful friends and allies.

Pope Francis arrives today lead his weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican.Reuters

The Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith is cited as owning hundreds of high-value properties in central Rome, worth hundreds of millions of euros.

Two years ago the Vatican bought a £16m stake in a Rome apartment block which housed Europe's biggest gay sauna, according to the Independent. There were many reports of priests using the sauna with the website promoting special "bear nights" that included a video of a man stripping off to change into clerical vestments.

On top of a list of private individuals who benefited from long-term leases at peppercorn rents, the congregation has relationships with dozens of companies which often served as covers for their real owners, the reports reveal.

The latest scandal comes just days after it was revealed that Vatican police arrested a senior priest and a former employee on suspicion of leaking confidential documents which are the basis of two new books on Vatican finances. The two, members of the commission set up by Pope Francis to reform church finances, are alleged to have passed sensitive details about their investigations to journalists.

In his weekly audience today, Pope Francis regretted the disappearance of shared mealtimes.

"Sadly, the family meal, this great symbol of togetherness, is disappearing in some societies. Food itself, the very sign of our sharing with other, is wantonly wasted in some places, while our brothers and sisters go hungry in others."