Pope Asks Public Officials to Set Good Example in Wake of Berlusconi Sex Scandal

Pope says public officials need to "rediscover their spiritual and moral roots."

ByABC News
January 21, 2011, 12:09 PM

Jan. 21, 2011 -- The pope appeared to scold Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi today over a sex scandal involving a 17-year-old prostitute, preaching that Italian public officials need to "offer a good example."

It was the second time in recent days that the Vatican expressed its displeasure over the scandal that has dominated Italian news for weeks.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's No. 2, said Thursday that the church was following the Berlusconi investigation closely and stressed his desire for a "more robust morality, a sense of justice and legality," especially for those who serve the public.

Pope Benedict XVI added his voice today during an audience with Rome's police officers. He called on public officials to "rediscover their spiritual and moral roots."

"The singular vocation that the city of Rome requires today of you who are public officials is to offer a good example of the positive and useful interaction between a healthy lay status and the Christian faith," said the pontiff.

The criticism comes as Berlusconi is under investigation for allegedly paying a 17-year-old girl for sex and using his office to cover up the illegal activity. Berlusconi's extravagant lifestyle and love of beautiful woman is well known and prosecutors said that during parties at his Milan estate the Italian premier had sex with multiple prostitutes.

Salacious wiretapped conversations from party participants, published this week in Italian newspapers, paint a picture of parties fit more for Playboy founder Hugh Hefner than a head of state. The conversations describe a villa with topless girls, who on at least one occasion were offered nurse and police uniforms to wear.

The 74-year-old Berlusconi denies the allegations and has come out forcefully refuting the claims. In two video recordings and an audio monologue he meticulously counters the prosecutors' and claims they are politically motivated.

In one wiretapped conversation, the teen prostitute, Karima el-Mahroug -- better known as Ruby the Heart Stealer -- is quoted saying that she asked Berlusconi for 5 million euros in exchange for her silence.

Ruby, now 18, has since been interviewed on a television station that is owned by Berlusconi and claims that she never had sex with Berlusconi or tried to blackmail him.