Postcard from... Rome


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Pope Francis has sent a Vatican emissary to clean up the diocese of Albenga in Liguria, where tales of tattooed priests working as barmen and padres posing shirtless with their gay lovers on websites are said to have shocked some of the locals.

One of the priests in hot water, in the diocese often seen as the most gossiped about in all of Italy, is Gabriel Viorel Irla, who is said to have posed naked on Facebook. Other clergymen have raised eyebrows by “working in bars at night” and “having tattoos”, according to press reports.

A group of 10 priests has published an open letter in which they said the Vatican’s claims were “painting a distorted picture” of their diocese. It is not as if the Church hasn’t got more important issues to deal with – because elsewhere the dreadful problem of clerical child sex abuse has hit the headlines again.

It has emerged that Don Mauro Inzoli, a priest from Cremona, northern Italy, who is accused of abusing 40 children over a 10-year-period, was quietly disciplined by a Pope Francis in a Vatican court. But it was left to a local MP, Franco Bordo, to call in the police. Mr Bordo has accused the Vatican of yet again “washing its dirty linen behind closed doors”. Don Inzoli is also a member of the very powerful, ultra-conservative, Catholic  lobbying group Comunione  and Liberazione, which campaigns effectively against the rights of women, gays  and divorcees – and probably people with tattoos.