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Pope speaks out on Berlusconi sex scandal (VIDEO)

Pope Benedict XVI has said public officials must offer a strong moral example, his first apparent comment on the Berlusconi sex scandal.

Silvio Berlusconi
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gestures as he greets his Somali counterpart Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on Jan. 20, 2011 at Palazzo Chigi in Rome. (Andreas Solaro/Getty Images)

Pope Benedict XVI has said public officials must offer a strong moral example, his first apparent comment on the sex scandal engulfing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy.

"Society and public institutions must rediscover their soul, their moral and spiritual roots," Pope Benedict XVI said in front of an audience of police chiefs in the capital, Rome, the BBC reported.

Though Berlusconi's name was not mentioned, the Pope's words echo those of a senior Vatican official who said the issue was troubling.

On Thursday, the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said he was watching the sex scandal engulfing the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, “with concern,” according to the news agency ANSA.

Cardinal Bertone said the Roman Catholic Church urged greater “morality” and “legality” in public life, especially from those holding public office.

Italy's President Giorgio Napolitano earlier this week said that more "sobriety and responsibility" was needed from public figures in times of austerity.

Meanwhile, 14 women named in an investigation into Berlusconi's alleged sexual dalliances have been evicted from a luxury apartment complex after the residents association complained they "lowered the tone."

The women all lived rent-free in the complex after being given the apartments by Berlusconi, 74, and were regulars at his infamous "bunga bunga" sex parties, according to the Daily Mail.

Prosecutors are investigating Berlusconi over claims he had sex with under-age prostitutes and extortion after he personally intervened in getting a 17-year-old, one of a "significant number" of women he had allegedly paid for sex, released from custody after she was held for theft.

Berlusconi's lawyers have said he will not attend questioning on charges that he paid for sex with a minor. He has denied the allegations, which he insists are politically motivated.

According to prosecutors they lived in the Via Olgettina complex on the outskirts of Milan rent-free in return for having sex with Berlusconi.

Via Olgettina, which features landscaped gardens, underground parking, a supermarket, bars and other facilities, is one of the most modern estates in the city. It also houses some of the billionaire's offices.

Since details of the investigation broke last week, locals have dubbed the estate ‘The Dolls House."

Each of the women has been sent a letter from the association asking them to leave because they "bring down the tone and decorum of the area."

Berlusconi will reportedly defy a summons by prosecutors investigating allegations he had sex with an underage prostitute, Karima el-Mahroug, because he claims the prosecutors don't have jurisdiction in the case.

Berlusconi's lawyers sent prosecutors in Milan a statement Friday saying he would not meet them, after they asked for a session with him this weekend.

Berlusconi's lawyers said the case should be handled by a special court for ministers.

The billionaire prime minister has denied allegations that he paid for sex with young prostitutes, including Mahroug, also known as Ruby, who was 17 at the time.

In a TV interview Wednesday, Mahroug, denied that she had sex with Berlusconi or asked for money in exchange for her silence, as wiretapped phone conversations published in the Italian news media this week suggested.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/italy/110121/italy-berlusconi-sex-underage-prostitution-vatican