Connect to share and comment

Holy foibles and the clash of media titans

News of the pedophilia scandals spark debate; a leaked British document calls for “Benedict” brand condoms. Berlusconi’s legal woes continue. Italians look to Rupert Murdoch to weaken Berlusconi’s media power. And a judge receives threats over a Google verdict.

 Top News: Calls for Pope Benedict to resign or issue a mea culpa for his role and the role of the church in a series of pedophilia revelations and related cover-ups has dominated Italian front pages in recent weeks. Internationally, commentary has been only slightly less tempered, noting that the pontiff, who celebrated both the fifth anniversary of his papacy and his 83rd birthday this month, has made only veiled references to the scandals in public addresses, though the Vatican has vowed to take action to bring abusers to justice.

The scandals mark the toughest period yet for Benedict XVI. The most recent development was the release of a leaked British government memo suggesting that the beleaguered pope adopt an itinerary that included introducing a “Benedict” brand of condoms and blessing a gay marriage on a trip to the U.K. later this year. The British government apologized, and the Vatican said the trip would go on despite the insult.

Legal troubles for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi continued despite several unexpected maneuvers from the billionaire’s lawyers. The tax fraud changes against Berlusconi were controversially suspended, while a new law will allow Berlusconi to sit out hearings related to two separate corruption trials. Critics continue to look into links from last year’s trial of British lawyer David Mills, who was charged with accepting bribes from Berlusconi in order to lie on his behalf in court. Documents released this month showed the charges were thrown out for technical reasons, and not, as Berlusconi’s allies contend, because they were groundless.

The four-year old Ara Pacis Museum, the first major public works project in Rome since World War II, will get a facelift with the blessing of architect and designer Richard Meier. The structure, which houses a 1st century BC pagan alter, has been controversial in Rome, where critics say it is too modern for the ancient city.

Money: Media titans Rupert Murdoch (News Corp.) and the aforementioned Berlusconi (Mediaset) are awaiting word from the E.U. whether they’ll lock horns on the country’s fast-growing digital television platform, which will go nationwide by the end of next year. The two former allies have seen competition between them heat up since last year, when Berlusconi founded Mediaset Premium, invading the satellite platform previously dominated by News Corp’s Sky-Italia unit. Since then, Mediaset has challenged Sky Italia’s exclusive rights to cover the World Cup soccer tournament, arguing that Sky Italia breached E.U. competition regulations. Meanwhile, those leery of Berlusconi’s massive influence over the media in Italy have started to look to the unlikely Murdoch as a potential savior.

The privacy and criminal defamation trial that found three Google officials guilty in February hinged on whether the company sought to earn a profit from a controversial video, according to a lengthy explanation from Judge Oscar Magi released this month. Magi received scores of threats in the wake of the controversial decision.

Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the former head of Ferrari and one of the architects of the turnaround and Italian automaker Fiat that eventually lead to the company taking over U.S. rival Chrysler, announced he would step down as Fiat’s chairman in favor of 34-year-old John Elkann. Unlike Cordero di Montezemolo, Elkann has an impeccable pedigree: he is the great-great grandson of Fiat founder Giovanni Agnelli and the grandson of the iconic Gianni Agnelli, who is credited with Fiat’s rise to international prominence in the 1970s and 1980s and who died in 2003. The move is part of a broader shakeup that comes as Fiat announced first quarter losses of more than $500 million. But the company said it is a necessary part of the revival of its auto unit that will help it digest the Chrysler acquisition more effectively.

Elsewhere: Berlusconi’s unexpected success in regional elections held in late March have emboldened the prime minister, who, before the vote, had been keeping a low profile in the wake of a series of setbacks and nationwide economic problems. In the wake of the vote, Berlusconi promised to move forward with an agenda of controversial reforms – to the dismay of many of his allies. Most recently, Berlusconi and political ally Gianfranco Fini have engaged in a public war of words, which saw Fini criticize Berlusconi for grabbing too much power within the political coalition the two men co-founded. Afterwards, the two men said the reports of their differences were overblown