VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis has approved the lease of a prestigious renaissance property to Bill Gates' Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts for the use of a hotel, a stone's throw from St. Peter's Basilica.
The deal follows a simmering controversy over an earlier bid by the pro-abortion magnate to convert the Palazzo della Rovere into a superluxury hotel on sovereign Vatican soil.
The 15th-century property is owned by the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, a Catholic order of knighthood committed to "preserving the Christian presence in the Holy Land in a dynamic of dialogue and peace with followers of other religious traditions."
The ancient order of chivalry faced stinging criticism last year for going "woke" and canceling the centuries-old ceremonial dubbing by the sword in its new rite of investiture for knighthood, Church Militant reported.
Situated just 300 meters from St. Peter's Basilica, the grand edifice is located along the Via della Conciliazione, the main street leading up to the colonnades in St. Peter's Square, described by sculptor-architect Bernini as "the motherly arms of the Church."
"The Order of the Holy Sepulcher, in agreement with Pope Francis, worked according to the principles of transparency and good governance to sign an agreement with Four Seasons that excludes any type of superluxury hotel," Vaticanist Franca Giansoldati told Church Militant.
"Four Seasons will build a 'social hotel' which will be committed to charity and supporting the Holy Land," Giansoldati said, noting that the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy was also involved in the agreement.
The Order of the Holy Sepulcher contributes financially to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which operates pastoral, educational and social works in Israel, Jordan, Cyprus and the Palestinian territories.
According to a statement on the knights' website, "The money the order has received by leasing the building has always been used to accomplish the order's mission: support for the Church in the Holy Land and Her faithful who are living very difficult lives."
"The Vatican and the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher do not want ostentation or luxury," Giansoldati wrote in Il Messaggero, noting the hotel "is destined to become a prototype of a form of 'social hospitality' sensitive to the ethical values of the reforms launched in recent years."
The company running the hotel will have to demonstrate its capability in promoting the products of the Holy Land, employing its handicapped, committing itself to distributing food to the needy and offering catering scholarships to young Palestinian Christians, she added.
Sources in Rome told Church Militant that the deal would ethically haunt both the order and the Vatican, as Gates continues to pursue a hard line on promoting abortion. The Four Seasons group is also known for endorsing the LGBTQ+ agenda, hosting a performance by drag queens in Washington, D.C., in May.
Environmentalists like Dr. Vandana Shiva — a key participant in Pope Francis' "Economy of Francesco" event — have called for "sainthood" to be stripped from the "criminal" Bill Gates and a "rebellion" against Gates' "philanthro-imperialism."
Until recently, the property was leased to the family-run Hotel Columbus, which refused to vacate the premises after the lease expired in 2007. An eight-year legal battle resulted in Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation ruling in favor of the knights.
The order began negotiating with the Gates' hotel group for a 27-year lease at an annual rent of over $1 million for a superluxury hotel of 64 rooms, 11 executive suites, 2 super suites and an underground parking area already under construction.
Critics slammed the project for flashing opulence in the face of increasing numbers of homeless people who sleep on the pavement just across the road from the proposed development.
The Radisson and Centurion Hotel Management groups also complained of an alleged violation of the tender process by Four Seasons and the order. The knights hit back, claiming they had been fully compliant with Vatican norms for the awarding of public contracts.
Church Militant contacted the knights for confirmation, but received no response as of press time. Last Tuesday, a statement on its website insisted that it would reach its decision "exclusively on the basis of the offer which best meets the underlying interests of the order's institutional aims."
Bill Gates, co-owner of Four Seasons, took full control of the business in 2021 after Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal agreed to sell half his stake in the luxury hotel chain to the cofounder of Microsoft.
Under Pope Benedict XVI, Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano blasted the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in a 2012 editorial for securing $4.6 billion to promote contraceptives, starting in Africa.
In November 2019, Pope Francis warmly welcomed pro-abortionist Catholic Melinda Gates, then-wife of Bill Gates, in an unpublicized private audience.