The mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, has decided to take control of the 1.5 million euros ($1.7m) that tourists toss into the Italian capital city’s iconic Trevi Fountain while making a wish.
The decision has triggered a dispute between the city council and the Roman Catholic Church since the money so far was used by a charity called Caritas, run by the church.
The charity said it used to cover 15 percent of its expenses from the fished treasure.
Reversing a practice that started in 2001, Raggi decided that the loose change retrieved from the fountain will be spent in maintaining Rome’s cultural assets and infrastructure.
The city council’s ruling is expected to come into effect on April 1.
According to Avvenire, an Italian newspaper affiliated to the Catholic Church, the money from the fountain was used, among other activities, to fund soup kitchens, social assistance programmes and a homeless centre.
The newspaper on Saturday criticised the move with a story headlined “Money taken from the poorest”.
The charity has also intervened on social media, asking the mayor to reverse her decision and reminding her of “5,000 volunteers, 300 social workers and 145 catholic centres” involved with the charity.
— Caritas Roma (@CaritasRoma) January 13, 2019
The city council’s decision to take over the fountain money was first proposed in 2017, but it was suspended.
The latest decision has evoked mixed reactions, with many also questioning why the church should have exclusive rights over the money.
The Trevi Fountain, commissioned by Pope Clement XII in 1732, is visited by millions of tourists every year.
A BBC report said the tradition of throwing coins was made famous by singer Frank Sinatra’s song “Three Coins in the Fountain” in a 1954 film of the same name.