As scandal rocks Italian government, Pope urges return to morality

Silvio Berlusconi CNA World Catholic News 1 21 11 Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi

Italians are calling for truth in a possible sex scandal that threatens to cause serious damage to their current government. Amid the turmoil, Pope Benedict XVI has issued a call for a return to morality for those in public office.

Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is being investigated for allegedly engaging a minor in sexual relations for pay. While Berlusconi attempts to avoid being brought to trial for the judicial process in Milan, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano asked in an official statement this week that the competent authorities review the findings "as soon as possible."

The Vatican's Secretariat of State voiced its support for the president's call for clarity in the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. It reported the greater part of his statement on Jan. 18.

Asked for comment on Jan. 20, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told Italian media that the Vatican is following the events "with attention and especially with concern."

He said he is particularly concerned for the families and younger generations of Italy, in light of the current events.

"The Holy See ... urges and invities everyone, especially those who have a public responsibility of any kind in whatever administrative, political and judicial sector to have and to assume the commitment for a more robust morality, of a sense of justice and legality."

These, he said, are the hinges of a society that desires to grow and that wishes to give positive answers to all the problems of our time."

Italian media has been filled in recent days with exclusive interviews with callgirls who claim to have had "dates" with the prime minister. He maintains his innocence and even told news outlets that it was he himself who passed Italy's law against prostitution.

The minor involved in the current scandal, Karima el-Mahroug, has denied the alleged relations with the prime minister and any payment from him. Investigations into wiretaps that say otherwise are ongoing.

Berlusconi insisted in comments on Italy's public RAI television network that he would have the case transfered to the ministers' court in Rome from that of Milan, which he deemed incompetent to hold the trial.

Incidentally, the Pope met with administrators and officers from Rome's police department on Jan. 21 to speak about a return to morality. He spoke of the "insecurity" today caused by the economic and social crises and made worse by a perceived loss of ethical principles.

"Our world, with all its new hopes and possibilities, is at the same time affected by the impression that moral consensus is breaking down and that, as a consequence, the basic structures of coexistence are no longer able to function fully."

Against the temptation to think in such a way, the Pope called all people and especially Christians to take responsibility for renewing efforts to profess their faith and do good.

He noted that there are "new challenges" to renewing man's encounter with God in world that gives importance to relativistic attitudes that operate under the premise that "each possesses his own truth and his own morals" and relegate religion to the private sphere.

But, he prayed for change, that "society and public institutions rediscover their 'soul,' their spiritual and moral roots, so as to give a new consistency to their ethical and juridical reference values, and hence to their practical actions."

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