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Vatican attacks Berlusconi over offensive jokes

The Italian prime minister just can’t catch a break – especially after making anti-Semitic jokes.

Image: Andrea Delbo/Milestone

ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER Silvio Berlusconi had only just put his latest scandal – making jokes about Hitler and telling young women to marry rich old men like himself – behind him, before being condemned by the Vatican for “offensive” jokes about the appearance of female MPs.

L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s official newspaper, attacked a video in which the 74-year-old billionaire was seen mocking the appearance of Rosy Bindi, a female MP, and cracking jokes with the public depicting Jews as money-grabbing misers.

The joke concerned a Jew who agreed to hide a fellow Jew in his cellar during World War II, but made him pay thousands of euro a day because, simply, “we are Jews.” The New York Times says that at the end, the protagonists asks whether he should tell his fellow Jew – still hiding in his cellar – that the war has been over for 65 years.

Berlusconi also used what the Guardian reports as the Italian language’s ‘most offensive religious oath’ when he referred to Bindi – the president of a rival party – as a “pig god”, a blasphemous term. The remarks were made to well-wishers on his birthday last week.

In a stinging editorial, the newspaper said the “deplorable” gags which disrespected the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

Berlusconi – a media magnate, and Italy’s richest man – defended the remarks as “neither an offence nor a sin, but merely a laugh. The bad taste and the responsibility are on the part of whoever publicises them.”

The remarks were publicised after a video of the PM cracking the jokes was posted online by La Repubblica, the leading anti-Berlusconi daily.

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Gavan Reilly

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