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Italy's top bishop has joined the chorus of criticism surrounding Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who reportedly paid a TV weather girl to attend sex parties.
Italy's top bishop has joined the chorus of criticism surrounding Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, mired in a sex scandal that produced yet another salacious side story on Monday.
Briton's Daily Mail reported Monday that Berlusconi paid a "glamorous" TV weather girl, who attended his infamous sex parties, more than $150,000.
Prosecutors last week discovered bank records proving he gave Alessandra Sorcinelli, 26, money in several installments, averaging $13,000, according to the Mail Online.
Documents detail a payment, termed a "non-interest-earning loan," from Berlusconi’s account to one in Sorcinelli’s name at the Bank of Sardinia. One text message to Berlusconi’s aide, Giuseppe Spinelli, read: "May I urgently remind you of the 10,000 euro bank transfer," according to the report.
And at the weekend, the paper reported, model Maria Esther Garcia Polanco, 25, said she had sex with Berlusconi — "but only because he paid my daughter’s medical bills."
Meanwhile, days after the Vatican weighed in on the wider scandal — which broke Jan. 17 with allegations by state prosecutors that Berlusconi paid for sex with a "significant" number of prostitutes, including a then 17-year-old nightclub dancer, at parties in his luxurious villa — Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco joined in criticism of the "moral malaise" sweeping Italy.
Bagnasco, president of the Italian Bishops Conference, said that the political quagmire was sowing the seeds of an "anthropological disaster," where the young see easy money, moral compromise and selling oneself as the road to success, Reuters reported.
The country, he said in a speech, was drifting from "one abnormal situation to the other" as the public remained "horrified" by the acts of politicians and suffering from "moral malaise."
"Whoever accepts a public position must understand the sobriety, personal discipline, sense of measure and honor that come with it," he said.
Pope Benedict XVI on Friday made a plea for a strong moral example by public officials, while 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.”
The comments underline the extent to which the traditional conservative establishment has become disillusioned with the center-right leader.
Berlusconi is being investigated over allegations that he paid 17-year-old dancer Karima El-Mahroug for sex after she attended a so-called "bunga bunga" party in his house.
Prosecutors have also accused him of extortion after he is said to have called police and put pressure on them to release Mahroug after she was arrested for theft.
Berlusconi has laughed off the inquiry, and prosecutors have thus far been blocked from raiding his offices.
Every day for the past few weeks, Italian newspapers have printed stories about alleged wild parties between Berlusconi and other older men and young, aspiring starlets and models who received money and favors.
Investigators are said to have found "interesting photographs" from Berlusconi’s bunga bunga parties.
Despite the constant flow of lurid stories, polls show Berlusconi is more popular than ever among voters, according to the Daily Mail.