Berlusconi moves to limit damage caused by anti-racism comments
Conservative leader and former premier Silvio Berlusconi. Photograph: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP
Silvio Berlusconi's government was today engaged in a vigorous damage limitation exercise after Pope Benedict appeared to lend his immense moral authority to speculation that Italy was in danger of returning to fascism under the tycoon's hardline, rightwing leadership.
In his customary midday Sunday address, the pontiff expressed concern at "recent examples of racism" and reminded Catholics it was their duty to steer others in society away from "racism, intolerance and [the] exclusion [of others]".
On any other day, his remarks might have been seen as no more than a restatement of official Catholic doctrine. But they came instead in the midst of a furious dispute over an editorial published by Italy's bestselling Catholic weekly, Famiglia Cristiana.