* Catholic magazine calls Berlusconi disruptive
* Vatican likes Monti, hopes he will continue to have
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY, Dec 13 Italy's Catholic Church
used to support Silvio Berlusconi as a bulwark against leftist
governments and fears they might legalise gay marriage and
There will be no blessing this time.
"Like a bolt out of the blue, the dinosaur returns and
throws the whole country into chaos".
This was not a headline from an anti-Berlusconi paper but
from an editorial in Famiglia Cristiana, an influential Catholic
magazine with one of Italy's largest weekly circulations,
reacting to the possibility of his political rebirth.
Berlusconi is teasing voters over whether he will, or will
not, be a candidate for prime minister in an Italian election
early next year. Famiglia Cristiana accused the 76-year-old of
selling Italians a mirage.
"This is pure populism, the Pied Piper has returned to
enchant people with his alluring promises. But this is clear
folly, which nullifies the sacrifices made by families and
blocks the virtuous path of reforms, even if they are
unpopular," it said.
The former prime minister'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.
On Monday, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, head of the Italian
Bishops Conference, made it clear where he stood on the issue.
"I am shocked by the irresponsibility of people who want to
look after their own affairs while the house is still on fire,"
The Church stood by Berlusconi nearly to the end of his last
government, which collapsed in November 2011. Mario Monti then
stepped in at the head of technocrat government to lead Italy
away from the risk of a Greek-style economic crisis.
Despite an array of political and sexual scandals -
including reports of wild "bunga bunga" parties with young women
- Berlusconi was backed by the Church because he was considered
the lesser of two evils.
"The Church's alliance with Berlusconi was based on their
joint fear of the left. Berlusconi guaranteed that as along as
he was in government, he would not budge on issues the Church
considered non-negotiable," said Catholic author Andrea
"The Church held its nose but knew it could rest easy on
issues such as gay marriage, euthanasia and bio-ethical
questions like in-vitro fertilisation," Tornielli, who also runs
the influential website Vatican Insider, told Reuters.
Now, the Vatican has made it clear it considers Berlusconi a
political relic and has expressed alarm at his populist
outbursts such as saying Germany was the root of Italy's
"I think the risks of propaganda of this kind are clear
because it does not correspond to reality ... some of his stands
have been incoherent," said Gian Maria Vian, editor of the
Vatican's newspaper, Osservatore Romano.
Monti goes to mass every Sunday with his wife of 40 years,
and he has impressed the Vatican with his calmness and what the
Church sees as a genuine desire to fix the country's economic
problems and avoid social unrest of the kind seen in Greece.
"The Church would be very happy if Monti succeeds himself as
prime minister or at least if he has a role in the next
government," Tornielli said.
Pier Luigi Bersani, the centre-left leader and former
communist, is likely to be the next prime minister if Monti does
not run and was an anti-cleric in his youth.
But in a recent debate, Bersani said one of his heroes was
Pope John XXIII, the pontiff who introduced reforms into the
Church 50 years ago and was regarded as one of the 20th
century's greatest progressives.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; editing by Robert Woodward)