Read more: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio named Pope Francis - the new leader of the Catholic Church

One day ahead of the papal conclave in Rome, The Independent has revealed that the scandal hit Holy See has purchased a $31 million share of the Rome apartment block that houses Europe’s biggest gay sauna.

It's a move that has left a sea of red faces to match the red capes of the horrified cardinals. But Cardinal Ivan Dias, the head of the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples, who is due to participate in today's election at the Sistine Chapel, may be blushing more than most.

According to the Independent, the 76-year-old 'prince of the church' enjoys a 12-room apartment on the first-floor of his magnificent palazzo, located at 2 Via Carducci, just yards from the ground floor entrance to the gay bath house and sauna.

There are 18 other Vatican apartments in the block, many of which house priests, the Independent reports.

Here's the advertising pitch from the gay sauna's website: 'Behind this door an exciting and comfortable world is waiting for you. A place created by males and for males only. A place where you will forget about stress, uncertainties, fears and enjoy the priceless pleasure of being yourself!

'Here you will find: king turkish bath, finnish sauna, giant whirlpool, waterfall whirlpool, relaxation rooms with videos, gym with Tecnogym equipments, cinema, aesthetics - solarium - massage, parties - shows - surprises, music therapy and aromatherapy, chromotherapy and the EMC Cafe' open non-stop!'

One ray of light amid the rolling PR nightmare still plaguing the church is this: thanks to generous tax breaks the church received from the last Berlusconi government, it will have avoided hefty payments to the Italian state.

Meanwhile Italian gay websites have been laughing uproariously over the news. On the site one wag quipped: 'Oops, I took the wrong door, I thought it was the chapel.'

Read more: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio named Pope Francis - the new leader of the Catholic Church