Saturday, September 05, 2009

Vatican succumbs to attack by Italian Government

Dino Boffo, the editor of the Catholic newspaper 'L'Avvenire', meets Pope Benedict XVI in 2005

The Times reports that an Italian Catholic editor who has been the subject of a sustained media attack by supporters of Silvio Berlusconi for criticising the Prime Minister's "immoral" lifestyle stepped down

Dino Boffo, editor of Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), said his name had been besmirched "for days and days in a war of words which has wrecked my family and stunned Italians".

He said the "defamatory" attacks by Vittorio Feltri, the editor of Il Giornale, the newspaper owned by the Berlusconi family, had "violated my life" and amounted to "a desire to desecrate which I could not have imagined existed".

Mr Feltri, who is leading an aggressive "counteroffensive" to "unmask" critics of scandals in Mr Berlusconi's private life, had unearthed a 2004 incident in which Mr Boffo paid a fine for alleged telephone harassment of the wife of an unnamed man whom Il Giornale claimed had been his gay lover, adding that he was a homosexual "known to the police for this kind of activity".

In Avvenire Mr Boffo issued a detailed ten-point rebuttal of the allegations. He admitted being fined in a harrassment case, but denied suggestions of a homosexual relationship. The editor said he was resigning because of the damage to his family and newspaper by Il Giornale.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, head of the CEI, accepted Mr Boffo's resignation "with regret", expressing his ''unchanged regard'' for Mr Boffo, who had been subjected to ''an indescribable media attack''. Mr Boffo suggested a ''shadowy anti-clerical power bloc'' was behind the campaign.

An exultant Mr Feltri claimed his "first victory in the battle".

However it has come at the price of a disastrous rift between Mr Berlusconi and the Vatican, which had backed Mr Boffo.

Last Friday Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, cancelled a dinner with Mr Berlusconi, and tentative plans for Mr Berlusconi to greet the Pope in the papal city of Viterbo this weekend have been shelved