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McDonald's Opens in Its Most Controversial Location Yet: Vatican City

Last week, McDonald’s set up shop within a stone’s throw of the home of the Catholic Church in Vatican-owned property, and not everyone is lovin’ it.

Around six million tourists visit Vatican City each year, but now, before they can pass through the awe-inspiring arched passageways of St Peter's Basilica, they will need to pass by another set of arches—golden ones.

Just last week, McDonald's set up shop within a stone's throw of the home of the Catholic Church in Vatican-owned property, and not everyone is lovin' it.

The McDonald's is located at the corner of Borgo Pio and Via del Mascherino, a mere block and a half—about 100 yards—from the famous St Peter's Square. While neighbors already displeased by vendors hawking knickknacks in the area have complained that the McDonald's would be a "decisive blow on an already wounded animal," at least one Cardinal is also saying leasing Vatican real estate to Ronald McDonald isn't in keeping with the Church's mission. Blessed are not the McFlurries, apparently.

When plans for the McDonald's, known as the McVatican, were announced in October, Cardinal Elio Sgreccia told La Repubblica that the restaurant was a "disgrace" that served "food that I would never eat." He added that the money spent on renting the real estate, for which McDonald's is shelling out roughly $31,000 per month, should be used to help the poor instead.

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But this is Italy after all, and Cardinal Sgreccia said that not only did the restaurant clash with the Church's principles and the grand aesthetic of Rome and Vatican City, it also was an affront to Italian food. "It's a business decision that ignores the culinary tradition of Roman cuisine," he said.

Photo via Flickr user Joseph Tame

Photo via Flickr user Joseph Tame

The building in question has been home to many Cardinals, including former Pope Benedict XVI himself, but the office overseeing the Vatican's vast holdings of real estate gave approval for the lease despite protests. A group of Cardinals have expressed concern they will have to pay extra fees to make the building capable of accommodating a restaurant. The Vatican's press office did not reply to a request for comment.

In a statement to MUNCHIES, a McDonald's representative clarified that the new location is "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."

However, those efforts to fit in weren't enough back in June 2016, when another Italian city, Florence, rejected an application to open a McDonald's in the city's famous Piazza di Duomo. McDonald's subsequently sued the city for $20 million.

More Vatican real estate drama is on the horizon, with a Hard Rock Cafe set to open on Via della Conciliazione, the grand boulevard leading up to St. Peter's, in what was a religious bookstore. When asked about the Hard Rock's impending arrival, one priest from a nearby church noted (perhaps in jest) that rock music was "satanic" and told Deutsche Welle he would say a prayer whenever he walked by.

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Though some have speculated that the McVatican will be popular with the Swiss Guard, who live in nearby barracks, Cardinal Sgreccia isn't budging. "I repeat, selling mega-sandwiches in Borgo Pio is a disgrace," he told La Reppublica.

As of yet, Pope Francis has yet to weigh in on the McVatican. That said, it's safe to say he'd prefer a pizza joint.