Berlusconi-Vatican rift widens

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London, Sept 2 (ANI): Relations between the Vatican and Silvio Berlusconi soured further after top church figures rallied to defend Dino Boffo, the Catholic editor, whose personal life was attacked by the Italian PM's family newspaper.

Il Giornale yesterday continued with its campaign to expose Boffo as a homosexual with a police record. The newspaper, which is owned by the premier's brother Paolo, had earlier alleged that the chief editor of the Avvenire, the newspaper of the Conference of Italian Bishops, the CEI, had a homosexual scandal in his past.

The paper alleged that Boffo had been fined several years ago for harassing the wife of a man in whom he was purportedly interested. Boffo has denied the allegations, reports The Times.

Berlusconi quickly distanced himself from Il Giornale's claim, but the incident damaged the premier's church ties, already frayed by the scandal.

Following the revelations, cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State and deputy to Pope Benedict XVI, telephoned Boffo to offer his "solidarity".

Cardinal Stanislao Dziwisz, former secretary to the late Pope John Paul II and now Archbishop of Krakow in Poland, said it was "the first time a Catholic paper has been attacked with such violence".

He added that he was "very worried by the moral decadence into which Italy is sliding because of the behaviour of certain important political leaders".

Berlusconi has been on the defensive since his wife announced in spring she wanted to divorce the premier, citing his alleged relationships with young women. (ANI)

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