The mayor of Rome and the Catholic Church are deeply at odds over what to do with the approximately €1.5 million ($1.7 million) in coins thrown into the iconic Trevi Fountain by tourists each year, local media reported on Monday.
Since 2001, the money has been given to the Catholic charity Caritas specifically to aid projects that help Rome's poor. However, now populist mayor Virginia Raggi is asking for the money to be spent on projects to repair the Italian capital's crumbling infrastructure.
Dubbed the "battle of the coins" in the Italian press, Caritas has been fighting a new regulation by the government of Rome to hand the money to a third party, which will distribute the funds to different projects, such as maintaining the city's many monuments. The last injunction against the change lapsed at the end of December, and the new resolution is set to take effect in April.
Mayor 'irritated' by debate
"Money taken from the poorest," is how Avvenire, the newspaper of Italy's bishops' conference, described the situation.
Raggi, however, has said she is "irritated," by the tone of the debate, according to Italian daily Corriere della Sera. She stressed that some of the money will still go to Caritas, just not all of it.
A member of Italy's governing populist Five Star Movement (M5S), Raggi has been under mounting pressure to address Rome's considerable infrastructure issues. The ancient city is plagued by massive potholes, uncollected garbage, fallen trees that lay unattended, and more high-profile incidents such as when more than 20 people were injured in October when an escalator malfunctioned at a metro station.
Despite this, many Romans are upset with the city council's decision to take what has traditionally been given to the destitute, Italy's ANSA news agency reported.
Caritas said that they hoped the mayor would change her mind, citing the "numerous concerns raised by journalists, politicians, priests and many citizens who have taken to social media" to express their dislike of the new measure.
The charity promised to redouble its "commitment to justice and the dignity of those who suffer."
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