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September 4, 2009

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Berlusconi accuser caught up in scandal

THE editor of a prominent Catholic newspaper that demanded Premier Silvio Berlusconi answer questions about a sex scandal resigned yesterday after being caught up in scandal himself.
Dino Boffo, editor of the Avvenire daily of the Italian Bishops' Conference, strongly denied the allegations raised by Il Giornale, a Berlusconi family newspaper that alleged he had been involved in a court case with homosexual overtones.
Boffo acknowledged being fined in a harassment case involving a woman. But he said someone else had used his cell phone to make the harassing calls and prosecutors denied there was any gay angle in the case.
Boffo said he resigned, however, because Giornale's "barbaric" attack had hurt his family and Avvenire.
Il Giornale, which is owned by Berlusconi's brother, published the article weeks after Avvenire called on Berlusconi to answer questions about his purported infatuation with young women.
Berlusconi has been on the defensive ever since his wife announced in the spring that she was divorcing him, citing his presence at the 18th birthday party of a Naples model. Italian media subsequently reported that women had been paid to attend parties at the premier's residences and that a high-class prostitute had once spent the night with him.
Smear campaign
Berlusconi, 72, has denounced what he says is a smear campaign against him. He has denied ever paying anyone for sex and says there was nothing "spicy" in his relations with the Naples model.
He distanced himself from the Giornale report alleging a gay scandal in Boffo's past, but the damage was already done: Berlusconi's relations with the church, already frayed by his own sex scandal, worsened, with the church canceling a dinner he was to have had with the Vatican No. 2.
The head of the Italian Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, had strongly defended Boffo and expressed regret over the resignation. Bagnasco denounced the "unprecedented media attack" against Boffo and praised his long-standing service to the church.
"I cannot allow this war of words that has devastated my family and astonished Italians to continue," Boffo wrote in his letter of resignation.


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