Cardinal Bagnasco attacks Italy elite over scandals

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The cardinal said the political class was preoccupied with self-preservation

A senior Roman Catholic leader has hit out at Italy's political class, saying the country needs to "purify the air" of sex and corruption scandals.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco told fellow bishops it was "mortifying" to witness "sad and hollow" behaviour that damaged the country's image abroad.

The cardinal did not specifically name Silvio Berlusconi in his speech.

But the prime minister is facing four trials on charges including tax fraud and paying for sex with a minor.

And the BBC's David Willey in Rome said everybody understood immediately who the cardinal was talking about.

'Sex boast'

Mr Berlusconi denies the charges and says he intends to remain in post to the end of his term in 2013, despite recent newspaper allegations that he was recorded boasting in a phone call that 11 women were queuing up to have sex with him.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Silvio Berlusconi is determined to see out his term as prime minister

Cardinal Bagnasco, head of the Italian Bishops Conference, said Italians had been left in a state of "dumbfounded astonishment" by their political class.

It was enmeshed in scandal and preoccupied with self-preservation, while the rest of the country suffered from a deep economic crisis, he said.

Politicians had a responsibility to live a moral life and set a good example because their behaviour had "undeniable effects on culture and education" and influenced the young and impressionable, the cardinal added.

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