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Vatican slams Berlusconi over anti-Semitic, sexist jokes

From Hada Messia, CNN
Silvio Berlusconi gestures as he delivers a speech in Milan on Monday.
Silvio Berlusconi gestures as he delivers a speech in Milan on Monday.
  • The newspaper of the Catholic Church calls the Italian prime minister's jokes "deplorable"
  • Videos on the internet show him telling jokes about the Holocaust and a female politician
  • The jokes appear to have been made in semi-private settings and filmed on cell phones
  • Berlusconi has apologized for the Holocaust joke, the Vatican newspaper says

Rome, Italy (CNN) -- The Vatican's official newspaper strongly criticized Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Sunday, calling it "deplorable" that he tells blasphemous, anti-Semitic and sexist jokes.

The editorial came a day after the Italian Catholic bishops' newspaper said Berlusconi needed to show more respect.

The Catholic newspapers were responding to videos posted on the internet showing Berlusconi telling jokes about the Holocaust and a female opposition politician, and using a fairly common but blasphemous curse, "Pig God."

All the jokes seem to have been made in private or semi-private settings and recorded on cell phones or similar devices.

In one, the prime minister jokes about a Jewish family charging another Jewish man a daily rate to hide him from the Nazis during World War II, then not telling him when the war is over.

In another, he says Italian opposition politician Rosy Bindi is so unattractive that she frightens off a man who's always trying to charm women.

Berlusconi made the comment about the opposition politician in spring 2009, but no specific dates were given for the other comments. The editor in chief of L'Avvenire, the Italian Catholic bishops' newspaper, wrote on Saturday that it doesn't matter when the prime minister made the jokes.

"The problem is the making of jokes and gaffes," Marco Tarquinio wrote.

An article in the official Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said that Berlusconi had apologized for the Holocaust joke, but the paper still took him to task.

"The head of the government's jokes appear more deplorable" and "offend indiscriminately the feeling of the faithful and the sacred memory of the six million victims" of the Holocaust, the paper wrote.

At a rally on Sunday, Berlusconi said he would like to make more jokes but could not because it would upset his right-hand man, Gianni Letta - whose responsibilities include liaising between the prime minister and the Vatican.