VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The jail cells in the Vatican police barracks were busy over the Christmas holidays: A member of the Femen protest movement spent two nights in one of the cells, and a man who climbed the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica to protest European economic policies began occupying another cell late Dec. 22.

Marcello Di Finizio, who spent the night of Dec. 21 on the facade of the basilica, was still in custody as of Dec. 29, the Vatican said.

The Vatican prosecutor, Gian Piero Milano, said he felt obliged to continue holding Di Finizio because of “the high probability” that the man would climb back up during the Christmas and New Year’s festivities when hundreds of thousands of people visit St. Peter’s Square.


Di Finizio owns a beachfront business in northern Italy, renting out umbrellas and lounge chairs. He claims European Union policies requiring states to auction off licenses for such businesses will ruin his livelihood. The December protest was his fifth on St. Peter’s Basilica since July 2012, although on previous occasions he perched on the basilica’s dome.

The other Vatican jail inmate was identified by Femen as Iana Zhdanova; the Femen website said she “kidnapped” the baby Jesus from the Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square to symbolically reclaim women’s rights to sexual and reproductive freedom.

About an hour after Pope Francis had given his solemn blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) Dec. 25, while thousands of people were still in St. Peter’s Square, Zhdanova took her top off and climbed into the Nativity scene, grabbing the statue and shouting what Italian newspapers described as obscenities. A Vatican police officer went after her, covering her with his winter cape and returning the statue to its place in the manger.

Originally accused of public obscenity, theft and contempt, Zhdanova was released Dec. 27. Milano issued a notice banning her from Vatican territory in the future.