Director of Italian Bishops' Newspaper Resigns

Victim of Feud Embroiling Church and Political Leaders

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ROME, SEPT. 4, 2009 ( Dino Boffo, director of the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire, resigned Thursday in the wake of a tumultuous feud with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

A communiqué issued by the Social Communications Office of the Italian episcopal conference confirmed that Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco accepted the resignation «with regret.»

Boffo also resigned as director of Sat 2000, an Italian Catholic channel, and of RadioInblu, a Catholic radio station.

The row erupted after Boffo ran a series of stories in Avvenire that criticized the immigration policies and personal life of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The prime minister’s personal life has been brought into question in the Italian media since he began the proceedings to divorce his wife, and begin a relationship with an 18-year-old aspiring model.

Il Giornale, owned by Berlusconi’s family, retaliated by publishing an article Aug. 28 on Boffo’s private life that included allegations dating back to 2004 that he was a homosexual. The director denied the accusations then, and he reiterated his denials this week.
The Il Giornale article openly admitted that the article was a response to Boffo’s criticisms of Berlusconi’s private life, and called Boffo a hypocrite.

Cancelled plans

The Vatican was drawn into the feud last week when Benedict XVI’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, cancelled a planned dinner that was going to be attended by Berlusconi. Other Church and political leaders defended Boffo, and accused Il Giornale of mudslinging.

The situation became more complicated Monday when Gian Maria Vian, editor the Vatican’s semi-official daily, L’Osservatore Romano, didn’t speak out on behalf of Boffo in an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Courier della Sera.

Vian restated the decision of the Holy See’s newspaper not to write about Berlusconi’s private life because the newspaper is international and is not designed to cover controversies in  Italian politics.
Vian further expressed his opinion that some recent editorials in Avvenire were exaggerated when, for example, one article compared the government’s position on immigration to that of the Italian administration prior to the Holocaust.

The comments of Vian were interpreted as constituting a point of contention between the Vatican newspaper and that of the Italian bishops’ conference. Benedict XVI sought to dispel any ideas of such a rift by personally calling Cardinal Bagnasco, president of the conference, and affirming his esteem for episcopal body.


Both in articles published in Avvenire, as well as in the letter to Cardinal Bagnasco tendering his resignation, Boffo insists on his innocence and states that Il Giornale’s accusations are not true.

He thanked the Church for its support, but added that it «has better things to do than strenuously defend one person, even if unfairly targeted.»

Boffo said he believes the attacks against his person are due to the fact that Avvenire is a voice that is independent of «secular power.» He asks, «What future of liberty and responsibility will there be for our information?»

Cardinal Bagnasco expressed in a communiqué gratitude to Boffo «for the commitment shown over many years with competence, rigor and passion, in fulfilling such a precious assignment for the life of the Church and of Italian society.»
The cardinal also expressed his «closeness and support» to the former director.

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