A former pedophile priest has claimed that an underage male prostitution ring has been operating inside the Vatican with clergymen hiring rent boys for sex inside churches. The Vatican has denied the claim.

According to the Iberian Times, the sensational claims have prompted Italian investigators to open an inquiry, after the alarm was raised by a convicted paedophile priest.

Don Patrizio Poggi, 46, reportedly told Italian authorities that a former Italian police officer pimped boys for nine clergymen.

Although he himself had previously served a five-year sentence for abusing teenage boys while he was a parish priest at the San Filippo Neri church in Rome, Poggi said he made the allegations to 'protect the Holy Church and the Christian community.'

The at-risk boys were carefully chosen because they were starving and desperate, Poggi told Il Messaggero newspaper.

According to reports the former policeman recruited the boys, mostly eastern European immigrants, outside a gay bar named Twink located near Rome's Termini train station.

The former policeman reportedly lured the underage boys into prostitution through 'false work offers for modeling and acting roles,' Poggi said.

The boys were reportedly paid $200 to around $600 to perform sex acts in church premises across the Italian capital.

In another sensational claim Poggi also accused the former policeman of selling consecrated hosts for satanic rites.

This week Poggi reportedly presented photographic evidence to the Italian police in the company of two senior Vatican clergymen who vouched for his credibility.

Poggi also identified the nine clergymen, including two senior church officials and a religion lecturer. Three have already been placed under formal investigation.

But Poggi's allegations have been rejected by the Vatican. Cardinal Agostino Vallini, head of the Catholic Vicariate of Rome, said the priest made false claims out of a desire for vengeance and personal resentment against other members of the church.

The Vatican refused to reinstate Poggi after he served his term for abusing other teenagers.

'The cardinal expresses his full confidence in the magistracy and declares himself full convinced that this slander will be demolished, demonstrating Poggi's claims to be untrue,' Vallini reportedly said. 'God will hold everyone accountable for their deeds.'

The Vatican has purchased a $31 million share of the Rome apartment block that houses Europe’s biggest gay sauna.Google Images