Berlusconi-Roman Catholic church conflict

Silvio Berlusconi, cartoon

Italian Rightist Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi used to be close to George W. Bush. Bush is not in the White House anymore.

Berlusconi used to be buddies with Rupert Murdoch. Not anymore by now.

Berlusconi used to be friends with at least sections of the Roman Catholic church. That also does not seem to be like in the old days.

From Italian news agency ANSA:

2009-08-28 15:10

Berlusconi paper vs Church editor

Bishops paper chief Boffo accused of hypocrisy

Rome, August 28 – A daily [Il Giornale] owned by the family of Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Friday accused the editor [Dino Boffo] of the Italian bishops daily [Avvenire] of hypocrisy in criticising the premier’s allegedly immoral lifestyle. …

Boffo, 57, who has penned editorials on the premier’s friendship with a teenage girl and a prostitute’s claims she slept with him, condemned the attack as ”barbaric”. He claimed he had been the ”first victim” in the phone-call affair.

The Italian bishops association (CEI) issued a statement confirming ”full confidence” in Boffo and praised him for editing Avvenire with ”indisputable professional ability, balance and prudence”. …

But Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana, sold in churches every Sunday, has gone further than Avvenire, saying the premier had ”overstepped the bounds of decency” with his ”indefensible” behaviour.


The premier has been at the centre of a media storm that began in May with a public divorce spat with his wife Veronica Lario and allegations of links with a teenage girl – Noemi Letizia – which surfaced after Lario accused him of ”consorting with minors”.

At the time, L’Avvenire published a front-page editorial calling for ”a premier who, with sobriety, is able to be the mirror of his country’s soul”.

Berlusconi and Patrizia D'Addario

After more recent allegations from escort girl Patrizia D’Addario who said she spent a night with the premier at his official residence in Rome, Avvenire voiced a sense of ”malaise,” ”desolation” and ”suffering” and ran a series of readers’ letters voicing their concern over Berlusconi’s alleged behaviour.

In his most recent editorial, Boffo accused Berlusconi of ”embarrassing much of the country”.


The Il Giornale attack came on the same day he cancelled a much-anticipated attendance at a high-profile Catholic ‘repentance’ Mass.

The newspaper’s blast also followed Thursday night’s news that the premier was suing left-leaning daily La Repubblica for one million euros in damages over questions it has been posing daily on Letizia and D’Addario and a separate article suggesting the premier might be open to blackmail.

See also here.

4 thoughts on “Berlusconi-Roman Catholic church conflict

  1. 2009-08-28 18:09

    Berlusconi sues La Repubblica

    Premier also on the offensive against the foreign press

    (ANSA) – Rome, August 28 – Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi is suing the country’s second-largest newspaper for defamation, the daily reported Friday. According to front-page article in La Repubblica, Berlusconi has asked for one million euros in damages for the newspaper’s recent coverage of the premier’s personal life.

    It was later learned that the premier intended to take similar action against foreign publications. In May, Berlusconi’s appearance at aspiring showgirl Noemi Letizia’s 18th birthday party triggered a media storm when his wife, Veronica Lario, filed for divorce on the basis that she ”(could) not stay with a man who consorted with minors”. Then in June, escort Patrizia D’Addario came forward alleging that she and other women were paid to attend parties at the premier’s residences. D’Addario also claimed to have spent the night at the premier’s house in Rome. La Repubblica later published excerpts of phone calls and conversations D’Addario claimed to have recorded while she was there. In filing against La Repubblica, Berlusconi’s lawyers cited an article the Rome daily has published every day since May, containing ten questions it wants answered about the premier’s relationship with Letizia and alleged involvement with call-girls. Lawyers also cited an article published on August 6 entitled Berlusconi Open To Blackmail, reviewing coverage of the escort affair in the foreign press. The article contains a quote from French weekly Nouvel Observateur suggesting a link between Berlusconi and the Russian mob via Bari businessman Gianpaolo Tarantini. In response to the law suit, La Repubblica editor Ezio Mauro wrote Friday that ”because (Berlusconi) is incapable of telling the truth about the political muck he has created…he has asked the courts to prevent journalists from verifying the truth”. The lawsuit is the latest in an ongoing feud between the premier and the left-leaning daily. In June, the Espresso group which owns La Repubblica, filed suit against the premier for telling businesspeople to boycott advertising ”in certain newspapers”.


    Britain’s Daily Telegraph would neither confirm nor deny on Friday on whether it may be sued for libel by Berlusconi.

    ”At the Daily Telegraph we never comment on polemics which involve us, we write about it directly in our newspaper,” the daily’s public relations chief, Fiona MacDonald, told ANSA. ”The Daily Telegraph never releases statements on controversies of a legal nature because these are private matters,” she added. Another British daily, The Guardian, told ANSA that its legal office had received no notification of possible legal action by the Italian premier.

    Berlusconi’s lawyer Nicola Ghedini on Friday told British news agency Reuters that similar action would be taken against foreign publications for their coverage of the premier’s private life. These were said to included Nouvel Observateur and the Spanish daily El Pais. News of the suits came on the same day that a daily owned by Berlusconi’s family, Il Giornale, accused the editor of the Italian bishops daily of hypocrisy in criticising the premier’s allegedly immoral lifestyle. Under the front-page banner headline The Supermoralist Condemned For Harassment, Il Giornale reported that Avvenire editor Dino Boffo had plea-bargained a 516-euro fine in 2004 for pestering a woman in the winter 2001-2002 to leave her husband, with whom he was in a relationship.

    The attack sent shockwaves even through Berlusconi’s own center-right party and he later distanced himself from an article.

    In a statement Berlusconi said, ”the right to privacy is a sacred principle which applies always and to everyone. ”I have reacted strongly against the fanciful gossip used to attack my private life over the past few months. ”For the same reason, I can not endorse what Il Giornale published today about the editor of Avvenire”.

    However, this failed to convince some politicians including Catholic scholar Rocco Buttiglione, chairman of the opposition Union of Center (UDC) party, who said that Berlusconi cannot deny responsibility for ”this attack by his pet journalist published in his own family newspaper”.


  2. Aug 28, 11:10 AM EDT

    Berlusconi nixes religious observance for sins

    Associated Press Writer

    ROME (AP) — Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who has been embroiled in a sex scandal for months, canceled his planned participation in a Catholic religious service for the remission of sins Friday after his presence was deemed problematic.

    Berlusconi was supposed to have attended the annual “Perdonanza,” or forgiveness observance, in the earthquake-stricken city of L’Aquila alongside the Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and then attend a dinner with him.

    But, less than three hours before the service was to begin, the Vatican announced that the L’Aquila archdiocese had canceled the dinner to avoid “exploiting” the situation. It didn’t elaborate, although it said the money for the dinner would instead go to quake victims.

    The cancellation gave Berlusconi a face-saving excuse to cancel his trip and avoid the prickly question of whether the twice-married premier would receive a so-called plenary indulgence, an extra spiritual step many faithful seek for remission of sins already forgiven through confession.

    Pope Celestine V issued a papal bull, or edict, in 1294 granting a plenary indulgence to anyone who entered L’Aquila’s basilica between the nights of Aug. 28 and 29 and was “truly repentant and had confessed.”

    Each year, thousands of the faithful flock to the basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio to participate in a procession and Mass and to take advantage of the indulgence.

    According to Vatican rules, though, the faithful must be in the state of grace, have gone to Confession, received Communion and prayed for the pope’s intentions to receive the indulgence.

    As a divorced and remarried Catholic, Berlusconi isn’t supposed to receive Communion. The Catholic Church doesn’t permit divorce, and people who remarry and consummate their new marriages are considered to be living in sin, and thus ineligible to receive the Eucharist.

    Berlusconi – and numerous other Catholics in his position – have lobbied the Church to change its teachings on the matter, but the Vatican has remained firm.

    Berlusconi divorced his first wife and married Veronica Lario in 1990. Lario has announced she wanted to divorce Berlusconi because of his reported dalliances with young women, including an escort. Her accusations have sparked months of tawdry headlines about Berlusconi’s personal life.

    Berlusconi’s presence at the L’Aquila commemoration had also raised eyebrows because he had planned to go with his equal opportunities minister, Mara Carfagna, a former model and TV starlet to whom the premier once professed: “If I weren’t married, I’d marry you.” Berlusconi later apologized to Lario after she publicly complained.

    After the sex scandal broke, Berlusconi denied any improper relationships with women and said he had never paid a woman for sex. But he has admitted he’s “no saint” and has reportedly promised to turn over a new leaf.

    Since Berlusconi couldn’t participate fully in the religious observance, his office designated his right-hand man Gianni Letta, who has not been divorced, to take his place.

    While the Vatican itself has remained silent on Berlusconi’s personal problems, influential Italian Catholic publications have taken him to task. Famiglia Cristiana, a Catholic weekly distributed in parishes across Italy, said Berlusconi had exceeded the “limits of decency” with his behavior.

    And the newspaper of Italy’s bishops conference, Avvenire, urged him to respond to the accusations.

    On Friday, the left-leaning La Repubblica daily – which has been at the forefront in exposing the scandal – said Berlusconi had filed a euro1 million ($1.4 million) defamation suit. At issue is the newspaper’s daily set of 10 questions it wants Berlusconi to answer concerning the scandal, including whether he could assure Italians that he couldn’t be blackmailed by any of the women.

    Ties between Berlusconi and the Church have been futher damaged by criticism over the conservative government’s crackdown on immigration. Italian media had suggested the meeting with Bertone would have given the two sides a chance to smooth over differences.

    The religious observance in L’Aquila has taken on particular resonance following the April 6 earthquake, which killed nearly 300 people in L’Aquila and surrounding areas, drove some 50,000 from their homes and leveled entire blocks of buildings. The basilica was severely damaged, with its roof partially caved in.

    In addition, this year marks the 800th anniversary of the birth of Celestine, a hermit and saint who was the only pope to have resigned. As a result, Bertone was dispatched to represent the Vatican at the commemoration, and until he canceled, Berlusconi would have been the first head of government to have attended.


  3. Pingback: Berlusconi against free speech | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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