Pope backs Italian Catholic Church in Berlusconi feud

The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, has offered his full support to the Italian Catholic Church in its media row over Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s sex scandal.

|PIC1|The pope spoke on the telephone with the Italian Catholic Church’s president, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the Italian Bishops Conference has stated.

During that call, Pope Benedict expressed his “esteem, gratitude and appreciation” to the Italian Church.

The Italian Catholic Church was dragged into the Berlusconi sex scandal after President Bagnasco and other top church officials defended a Catholic editor who was criticised by a Berlusconi family newspaper after demanding that the premier answer allegations over his purported relationships with young women.

Accusations have been made against the chief editor of the Catholic newspaper ‘Avvenire Daily’, Dino Boffo, by Il Giornale, which is owned by the prime minister’s brother Paolo.

The feud has further strained Berlusconi’s ties with the Italian church, and following the accusations against Boffo a meeting between Berlusconi and the pope's top aide, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, was cancelled.

The influential Catholic Church in Italy holds a powerful sway in the country, and it is thought that poor relations with it would seriously hamper any political party’s chances at election time.