The founder and unofficial leader of Italy’s anti-establishment Five-Star movement has had to backtrack over comments he made in an interview with Euronews.
Beppe Grillo suggested the Vatican should pay rent to the city of Rome, whose mayor Virginia Raggi was elected last summer after running as a Five Star candidate.
The comedian mistakenly said the Italian capital owned the Vatican Museums.
“The Vatican Museums, I believe, are owned by the Municipality, the Municipality does not receive anything. We’ll talk with Bergoglio, (referring to the pope) because I think he doesn’t know it,” he told Euronews’ Gardenia Trezzini, during an interview in Brussels for The Global Conversation (in Italian).
In fact the museums are owned by the Vatican, which is independent – and the error prompted Grillo to correct his assertion on Facebook.
“The Vatican Museums are in the Vatican and no-one doubts that,” he said.
The founder of Five-Star, which has become the second most popular party in the country, said he hoped a solution could be found for the Catholic Church to pay taxes for its commercial activities.
Among a torrent of criticism from the political left and right, Grillo has been accused of a “colossal lie” and a “shameful blunder” denoting his movement’s “ignorance” and “inadequacy for office”.