VATICAN CITY – An Italian entrepreneur lowered himself onto a narrow ledge on the facade of St. Peter's Basilica on Sunday, the fifth time he has evaded Vatican security to mount a public protest against government reforms at one of Roman Catholicism's holiest sites.
Marcello di Finizio told The Associated Press by telephone from his perch overlooking St. Peter's Square that he chose the spot above the basilica's main entrance because it is more visible than the cupola, which he had scaled on four previous protests.
"I was too high on the cupola, and they managed to silence the media and the public. Now I am more visible," di Finizio said.
He scaled the facade late Sunday afternoon and said he would remain on the open perch, which is directly above the loggia where Pope Francis is to give the Christmas Day blessing to the faithful this week, until Italian leaders agree to meet with him.
He said he was without food, water or blankets, and had to ditch a backpack that had a banner on his way to the facade.
"If someone tries to block me, it will end in tragedy," di Finizio said. "I am truly without any safety net, and if they touch me or try to grab me I will fall."
Di Finizio said he is losing his business, a beach concession in the northern city of Trieste, due to reforms adopted two governments ago to bring Italy in line with European norms and make the beach concession sector more competitive.
He said Italian politicians ignored regulations that would have allowed people in his position to maintain business they had invested in.