Cardinal mentor of Berlusconi is leading Italian candidate for papacy

Archbishop of Milan Scola tutored politician three decades ago

Italian cardinal and Milan archbishop Angelo Scola leads a mass at the Santi Apostoli church  in Rom.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Italian cardinal and Milan archbishop Angelo Scola leads a mass at the Santi Apostoli church in Rom. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)


Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Archbishop of Milan and arguably the leading Italian candidate to become pope, more than 30 years ago participated in four weekend “master- classes” in politics, set up exclusively for former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and his two most trusted advisers.

This disclosure was made last November by investigative TV programme Report on Italian state broadcaster RAI 3.

The programme claimed that in 1979, just two years after Berlusconi had bought a 12 per cent holding in Milan newspaper Il Giornale , the media tycoon turned to Luigi Giussani, founder of influential lay movement Comunione e Liberazione (CL).

Berlusconi has always claimed an affinity with Giussani, saying that not only did he play “an important part” in his decision to enter politics in 1994 but also that he had defined Berlusconi as Italy ’s “Man of Destiny”.

Berlusconi turned to Giussani for a “crash course” in Italian politics, attended not only by himself but also by senator Marcello Dell’Utri, already twice sentenced for Mafia collusion, and Fedele Confalonieri, the longtime president of Berlusconi’s Mediaset broadcasting group.

These accusations were made on TV by Marco Palmisano, an ex-Memores Domini or CL lay monk, who said: “The classes took place in Via Rovani, Milan, for four weeks in a row, from the Friday through to Sunday. Five people from our cultural section went to give them lessons.”

Palmisano identified the five people as UDC leader and ex-Christian Democrat (DC) Rocco Buttiglione; former Lombardy region president Roberto Formigoni; publisher Sante Bagnoli; former DC senator Guido Folloni; and Scola.

Palmisano claimed Scola “would be terrified” to admit now to having been involved in the “masterclasses”. The Repo rt journalists asked for a comment on the matter by Scola but he declined to make any statement.

There is no secret about Scola’s connections to the CL movement. In one of the Wikileaks documents issued in 2011, a Rome-based US diplomat identifies Scola as a “polyglot with a brilliant theological reputation, someone to keep our eye on”, adding: “Scola’s roots in the Comunione e Liberazione movement make him very interesting in the eyes of the conservative political establishment, all over the world.”

Corruption scandals
Another of Berlusconi’s tutors, CLmember Roberto Formigoni, has hardly covered CL in glory, with his Lombardy regional government collapsing last October in the wake of corruption and bribery scandals.

Last month, public prosecutors charged Formigoni with “criminal association”, alleging that in return for favours, including ¤8 million and luxury holidays in the Caribbean, he had awarded health service contracts to Pierangelo Dacco, who last year received a 10-year sentence for his part in the financial collapse of the San Raffaele hospital in Milan.

Prosecutors also believe Dacco contributed up to ¤500,000 to Formigoni’s successful 2010 Lombardy election campaign. Formigoni denies the charges.

Under the pontificate of Benedict XVI, the CL movement sparkled brightly. Not for nothing four members run the papal household and continue to live with the Roman pontiff emeritus, while Scola has often been portrayed as a logical successor to Benedict.