Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister and a man with a reputation for being a wise-guy, was admonished by L'Osservatore Romano over the weekend for yet another joke told in bad taste. His latest "zinger" offends believers and victims of the Holocaust.
Italy's La Repubblica newspaper released a video this week in which the prime minister is recorded in the street just outside his residence, where he went out to meet with supporters. Berlusconi spoke about several issues, but his utterances about a Jew who paid to be hidden in another Jew's basement to esape the concentration camps of World War II, offended Italians.
In telling a surprised third Jew about how he demanded 3,000 Euro per day to do so, the host reasons that: "one, we're Jews and, two, he has the money ... so leave me in peace." By the way, he says, "do you think we should tell him that the war is over?"
Documenting the bitter reactions around Italy to the video, the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano (LOR) newpaper recalled one of the messages from the plenary meeting of the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI) last week: that the political situation in the country generates a feeling of "anguish."
And, "in this context," the LOR editorial continues, "some jokes of the chief of government ... that offend indistinctly the feelings of believers and the sacred memory of the six million victims of the Shoah are all the more deplorable."
LOR seconded the sentiments of CEI president Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco who said last week that comments made in the public square must be "suitable to civility and education."
The Italian prime minister, who has a history of such jokes, recently responded to criticism of another joke in which he made fun of an opposition leader's appearance. It was actually the second time he has done so, but it was "just for laughs" he said, adding that the "bad taste and responsibility" for such comments "are, in any case, of those who publicize it."