Vatican under fire over new rules on modesty
Published 29/07/2010 | 05:00
THE Vatican was criticised after taking action against tourists wearing skimpy clothes.
Tourists entering St Peter's Basilica have long been required to dress modestly, but yesterday the Swiss Guards -- the Pope's security force -- appeared to have extended the rules to the entire Vatican City state.
The guards drew aside men in shorts and women with uncovered shoulders and short skirts to tell them that they were not dressed properly.
Some female visitors bought shawls and scarves from hawkers, while a few men had to go to nearby shops to buy long trousers. Others were refused entry altogether.
Visitors said that the Roman Catholic Church should have more important things to worry about at a time it was battling scandals over paedophile priests.
"Given all the scandals the church has been involved in, what possible right can it have to be preaching about the morality of sleeveless dresses?" asked one woman in her 70s, identified only as 'Maria'.
The tough dress code also applied to Romans using the Vatican's pharmacy, supermarket and post office.
Adherence to the strict dress code has frayed tempers in the past -- especially when the summer temperatures soar.
Stall-holders have always managed to make a living through the sale of paper pants and shirts -- turning St Peter's Square into an giant open-air changing room.
It is not entirely unheard of for the precincts to be turned into something of a battle zone as fraying nerves give way and the language becomes anything but holy.
Rome's policemen have also been out in force to ensure tourists don't cool their feet in the Trevi Fountain and other landmarks.
At the Vatican, authorities have erected signs showing no one can enter the basilica with bare legs and bare shoulders. Guards, neatly dressed in shirts and ties, patrol the entrances.
There had been some confusion as to when the code had to be obeyed. Some thought that the dress code only applied when the Pope was at home.
It is not only the Vatican, but the diocese of Rome and its hundreds of churches, that require what authorities consider 'appropriate' dress. But unlike the Vatican, most of the churches cannot afford guards, and they have become cool refuges for the barely-clad.
Some tourists do come prepared, pulling out pants and shirts from backpacks and changing in St Peter's Square, often prompting cat calls. (© Daily Telegraph, London)