The Vatican has been accused of hypocrisy after Swiss Guards launched a crackdown on tourists wearing skimpy clothing.
By Nick Squires in Rome
Visitors said that at a time when the Catholic Church is battling scandals over paedophile priests and decades of cover-ups, it should have more important things to worry about.
Tourists entering St Peter’s Basilica have long been required to dress modestly, but from early this week the Swiss Guards – the Pope’s private army – appeared to have extended the rules to the entire Vatican City State.
The guards, who wear striped blue and gold uniforms, carry halberds and trace their service to the papacy back to 1506, drew aside men in shorts and women with uncovered shoulders and short skirts to tell them that they were not dressed properly.
Some of the female visitors bought shawls and scarves from nearby hawkers, while a few men had to wander off to the nearest shops to buy long trousers.
Others were refused entry altogether, and accused the authorities of double standards.
“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?” said one woman in her seventies, identified only as Maria.
The tough dress code also applied to Romans using the Vatican’s pharmacy, supermarket and post office.
The crackdown on inappropriate clothing comes at a time of almost unprecedented crisis for the Vatican, with senior figures, including Pope Benedict XVI, accused of failing to act against priests who sexually abused children.
The scandal first erupted in the United States a decade ago but in the last year has engulfed the Catholic Church in Ireland, Austria, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Belgium and the Pope’s native Germany.