Former Archbishop of Siena, Gaetano Bonicelli (pictured), who advises the Italian Bishops' Conference on social policy, stressed the evictions were not being carried out by the Church directly, but by the property agents of organisations linked to it.
“Their (property agents) conduct was certainly not in line with the teaching of the Pope’s on the right to housing,” Bonicelli said.
"It would be better to take below-market rents than to refuse to give a hand to those who can't make alternative arrangements."
However, the residents have accused Church bodies of indulging in a "speculative frenzy" and have formed a committee to combat the evictions, The Guardian reported.
In a letter to Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Italian Bishops' Conference, the committee wrote they had “always paid the rent and taken care of our flats.”
The problem of low cost housing is most acute in the centre of Rome, where a quarter of the property is owned by the Vatican and church organisations.
Tenants at risk include former Vatican employees, their survivors and descendants. Others are simply long-standing tenants of bodies linked to the church.
Vatican under fire as 4,000 face eviction (The Guardian, 30/10/07)