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Politicians mull bishop's morality call

Berlusconi party says Bagnasco 'not just talking about premier'

27 September, 12:52
Politicians mull bishop's morality call

(ANSA) - Rome, September 27 - Italian politicians on Tuesday mulled a call from the country's top bishop for greater morality in public life.

Amid a welter of graft and sex scandals, many of them involving Premier Silvio Berlusconi, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco on Monday said: "the air must be purified, corruption is like an octopus".

On Tuesday Deputy House Speaker Maurizio Lupi of Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party said the call "concerns all who have political responsibility, not just Berlusconi".

The leader of a small Catholic centrist party, Francesco Rutelli, said Bagnasco's unusually strong statement showed "Berlusconi no longer has the backing of the Church". An influential Catholic activist group, Sant'Egidio, saw Bagnasco's words as a "clear call" for Catholics to engage in Italian politics.

Many observers claimed Bagnasco was expressing Catholic unease about the premier, who is involved in four trials, three for fraud, bribery and corruption and one for having sex with an underage prostitute and allegedly using his position to try to cover it up.

In a fifth case, Berlusconi is reportedly set to be placed under investigation for allegedly inducing a businessmen who paid prostitutes to attend the premier's parties to lie to judges.

A minority of observers, however, saw the bishop's call as a more general one after a series of other graft cases, some involving opposition parties. Bagnasco did not name any politicians in his address to Italian bishops.

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