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Berlusconi stung by Italian cardinal's criticism

The Catholic church added to criticism of Italy's hardline policy on illegal immigration on Tuesday after a boat tragedy left at least six Albanians dead, less than a week after about 50 Africans drowned off Sicily.

A controversial law intended to prevent immigrants reaching Italy and punishing those who do was branded a mistake in a rare public rebuke by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the president of the Italian bishops' conference and a trusted aide of the Pope.

The cardinal said that insisting that immigrants had a work contract before arriving, and restricting the number of relatives who could join them, was contrary to church teachings on respecting people as humans, not just workers.

The restrictions are at the heart of a new policy of Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right government aimed at cutting the rising number of immigrants.

Cardinal Ruini's reputation as a conservative gave his intervention more impact. The opposition seized on it as a vindication of their criticism.


14 Mar 2002