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Pope calls for 'ethical renewal in Italy'

Plea resonates amid Berlusconi sex scandals

22 September, 13:44
Pope calls for 'ethical renewal in Italy' (ANSA) - Rome, September 22 - Pope Benedict XVI called for an "ethical renewal" for the good of Italy as Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi confronts mounting scandals including sex with a minor, prostitutes and showgirls.

"I hope for an ever-more intense ethical renewal for the good of beloved Italy," said the pontiff in a telegram to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano ahead of a visit to his native Germany.

While the pope's wish was adressed to "all Italian people," his comments resonated amid Berlusconi's judicial woes including alleged sex with an underaged prostitute and a potentially embarrassing stream of wiretapped conversations with a southern Italian businessman who allegedly acted as a pimp for him.

In one recording, 74-year-old Berlusconi allegedly brags about "doing eight girls" in one night.

Berlusconi's boastings of lavish trysts has fueled a growing anger among some Italians who perceive the political class as corrupt and unwilling to share in sacrifices as average citizens bear the brunt of austerity measures meant to stave off a Greek-style economic collapse.

The pope made similar pleas in January when Milan prosecutors first announced they were investigating allegations Berlusconi paid to have sex with a Moroccan belly dancer who goes by the name of Ruby and was 17 at the time of her alleged relations with the premier.

"Society and public institutions should rediscover their soul, their spiritual and moral roots," said the pontiff.

The Vatican is currently battling accusations of moral failing itself.

Last week, a coalition representing the victims of clerical sex abuse asked the International Criminal Court in the Hague to investigate Pope Benedict XVI and three top cardinals for what the group called "widespread and systematic torture, rape and sexual violence committed by priests and others associated with the Catholic Church".

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