Melbourne Catholic Church under fire for pushing beloved Pietro e Paolo cafe

‘Heartless’ church under fire for pushing beloved community cafe – as locals vow to fight Catholic guardians over move

  • Melbourne Catholic Church asks beloved local cafe to leave
  • Cafe Pietro e Paolo is an integral part of the local South Melbourne community
  • The owner received a letter from the church informing him that he had to leave the land
  • More than 100 residents gathered outside the building to protest the decision

A local Melbourne community is mobilizing against the Catholic Church trying to drive a beloved cafe out of the area.

The owner of Italian restaurant Pietro e Paolo in south Melbourne has been told his lease on the church grounds will not be renewed.

More than 100 residents gathered outside Saints Peter and Paul Church on Saturday, calling on management to “show heart” for the cafe and its owner who have helped the community through the Covid pandemic.

“It’s been part of all the celebrations we’ve had since it opened. Andrea made all the birthday cakes for my kids. It would be a shame to leave the property unoccupied,’ Chelsea Murrell told The Age.

‘Andrea has more charity in her little finger than we’ve seen people show [in the rectory] the next door.’

The owner of Italian cafe Pietro e Paolo in south Melbourne has been told his lease on the church grounds will not be renewed

More than 100 residents gathered outside Saints Peter and Paul Church on Saturday, calling on management to

More than 100 residents gathered outside Saints Peter and Paul Church on Saturday, calling on management to ‘show heart’

The church’s priest, Father Bob McGuire, was forced into retirement in 2012 – a figure who locals say played a key role in creating its tight-knit local community.

Andrea Mantese, who runs the cafe, has effectively taken his place as suburban patriarch, but now risks losing his institution.

The Pietro e Paolo regularly feeds the homeless and provides food for the church and locals in need.

He became a pop-up florist during the pandemic, to bring a touch of light to the neighborhood.

Ms Murrell, whose children attend Catholic primary school across the road, said the cafe was where local mothers meet every day.

It remains unclear why the cafe is at risk of closure, with parishioner Robert Larkins saying no details were given in plans for the space.

Father Gary Deverywas in charge of the decision, but has so far declined to comment.

“Let’s hope the Catholic Church shows some heart, especially in our time when it needs to indicate it has compassion for the community,” Larkins said.

The Catholic Church has come under fire from a local South Melbourne community for telling its beloved community cafe to close

The Catholic Church has come under fire from a local South Melbourne community for telling its beloved community cafe to close

Other locals described the café as “iconic” and crucial in providing the suburb’s “sense of community”.

The owner, Mr Mantese, said he was “disgusted” by the lack of communication from the church.

“I asked if we could arrange a lease until at least Christmas, or go month by month, but they said no,” he said.

‘[Father Devery] said to my face, “it’s not for me to decide”, but the archdiocese says that the parish is 100% independent”.

In a statement, the executive director of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Tim O’Leary, said the decision “ultimately rests with the parish priest”.

‘[I] understand that the parish is in the midst of a larger overall planning process, including a review [of] all aspects of parish property,” he said in a statement.

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