Pope Benedict sent a political Christmas greeting to Italians on Tuesday as they head into an election campaign expected to be brutal and bitter: Think, cooperate for the common good and do not discard values when making big choices.
The pope, in his Christmas greetings in 65 languages, said in his special message to Italians that he hoped the spirit of the day would “make people reflect, favor the spirit of cooperation for the common good and lead to a reflection on the hierarchy of values when making the most important of choices.”
Italy holds national elections on Feb. 24 and Feb. 25 to choose a new parliament and a new government.
Given that Italy’s Catholic Church has turned its back on former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi — who is trying to make a comeback even though his previous terms were mired in sex scandals and judicial woes — Benedict’s words could be far less general and casual than they appear at first glance.
“It’s not a specific endorsement for [Italian Prime Minister Mario] Monti, but it comes pretty close, given the well-known esteem the outgoing prime minister enjoys [at the Vatican,]” the Italian news agency Ansa said of the pope’s words.
The Church has been embarrassed by the scandals surrounding Berlusconi, but at the same time fears the unknown of what a leftist government might do on issues such as gay marriage and euthanasia.
The former EU Commissioner goes to mass every Sunday with his wife of 40 years and has impressed the Vatican with his calmness and sobriety.
Italy’s Catholic Church used to support Berlusconi as a bulwark against leftist governments.
However, it has made it clear to Berlusconi that this time there will be no blessing.
In its reaction to Berlusconi’s decision to return to politics, Famiglia Cristiana, an influential Catholic magazine with one of Italy’s largest weekly circulations, likened him to a “dinosaur” who could throw “the whole country into chaos.”
Berlusconi’s adversaries accuse him of wanting to return to front-line politics to protect his business interests and regain partial and temporary immunity in trials for corruption and paying for sex with a minor.