Several thousand residents in Rome face eviction from their homes rented from the Vatican and other Catholic organizations.
Appealing in a letter to Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Italian bishops' conference, a committee formed by tenants said: "We have always paid the rent and taken care of our flats. None of the evictions is for non-payment of rent; they are all because of expired leases."
Last month Archbishop Bagnasco decried in a speech the shortage of low-cost housing, sympathizing with evicted tenants who cannot find alternative housing.
The former Archbishop of Siena, Gaetano Bonicelli, who advises the bishops' conference on social policy, stressed the evictions were being carried out, not by the church directly, but by the property agents of organizations linked to it. He said the agents' conduct was "certainly not in line with the teachings of the popes on the right to housing."
He added: "It would be better to take below-market rents than to refuse to give a hand to those who can't make alternative arrangements."
The organizations behind the property agents include religious orders and papal colleges, but also certain charitable foundations with only tenuous links to the Church.