VATICAN CITY, Saturday
The Vatican has thrown its weight behind outgoing prime minister Mario Monti, ditching the scandal-hit Silvio Berlusconi in favour of a practising Catholic they hope may lead Italy after February’s general election.
The Vatican’s Osservatore Romano newspaper this week said Monti’s appeal for compatriots to “rise up” and commit to renewal of national politics was “a call to rediscover the more noble meaning of politics.”
The Roman Catholic Church, an influential political player in Italy, once supported Berlusconi but took steps to distance itself from the media magnate last year amid a series of high-profile sex scandals.
Monti’s use of the term “ascent into politics” — a barbed reference to Berlusconi’s oft-quoted phrase in which he announced his “descent” into the political fray in 1994 — captured the appeal he holds for a Church which has tired of the aged media magnate.
“Berlusconi’s governments have been characterised by a level of inaction,” Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, said yesterday in reference to the three-time premier, who is once again running for the top job in February 24-25 elections.
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, head of the Italian Church, weighed into the election campaign fray on December 10, warning against letting Monti’s reforms — which pulled Italy away from the debt crisis brink — go to waste.
The Church supported Berlusconi for almost two decades — despite tales of parties with young starlets and allegations of orgies — because he promised to block attempts to push through new laws on key topics, such as gay marriage. (AFP)