Iain Dale 7pm - 10pm
Thousands flock to Silvio Berlusconi’s funeral in Milan as Italy's Prime Minister comforts his grieving wife
14 June 2023, 17:18
Thousands of Italians gathered in the centre of Milan today for the state funeral of Silvio Berlusconi, as the nation mourns the loss of the controversial former prime minister.
Some 2,000 people attended central Milan today, cramming themselves into the city’s cathedral and the adjacent piazza, as they showed their respects for the former billionaire and his family.
Silvio Berlusconi held the position of Italian prime minister three times throughout his life, and was a public figure often caught in scandal and controversy, as he remains a divisive figure among the Italian public today.
He died aged 86 on Monday, ordering a day of national mourning for the rest of Italy for his funeral on Wednesday.
Mr Berlusconi’s wife, Marta Fascia, 33, and his children sobbed as his coffin was carried down the cathedral aisle and comforted each other at the same time.
While Silvio and Marta never officially married, the pair held a ‘fake’ ceremony and Marta was regarded the media tycoon’s third wife.
The billionaire tycoon will be cremated and his ashes held in a mausoleum he built for himself.
Mario Delpini, the Archbishop of Milan, presided over the funeral and delivered his eulogy.
The Archbishop said: “When a man is a politician, then he tries to win. There are those who exalt him and those who cannot stand him.
“When a man is a protagonist, then he is always on stage. He has those who applaud him and those who detest him.
“But in this moment of farewell and prayer, what can we say about Silvio Berlusconi? He has been a man: a desire for life, a desire for love, a desire for joy.
“He is a man and now he meets God.”
Crowds were filled with Berlusconi supporters, family members, world leaders and allies during the ceremony, including Hungary’s president Viktor Orban and Iraqi President Abdel Latif Rashid.
Former England manager Fabio Capello attended the cathedral too, as Berlusconi owned the Milan club from 1986 to 2017.
His coffin arrived in a motorcade from his villa, reportedly made of the same type of mahogany used for Jimi Hendrix’s guitars.
Despite the former prime minister’s controversy, many applauded as the coffin was carried into the cathedral to mark the beginning of the state funeral.
Giorgia Meloni, the country’s prime minister, ordered a day of national mourning for Mr Berlusconi despite typically reserving such honours for presidents only.
The move attracted controversy from left-leaning politicians and members of the public due to his controversial status. Throughout his political career, Mr Berlusconi was caught in sex scandals, tax fraud convictions and more.
Earlier this week, when a theatre in Bologna requested a minute of silence for him, audience members booed in response.
Meanwhile a college in Siena refused to fly a flag at half mast for the ex-prime minister, as it said: “Berlusconi left Italy worse off”.
Prime minister Giorgia Meloni said before the funeral that the ex-prime minister was loved by Italians because “he was one of them”.
But Rosy Bindi, a former government minister with Italy’s left-of-centre Democratic Party, said: “A day of mourning for a divisive person like Berlusconi was an inappropriate choice”.
The government has also been involved in controversy for their decision to halt voting in Italy’s parliament until next Monday.
Emma Bonino, the party leader of +Europa, a small liberal party, said: “Blocking the lower house, senate and politics for a week is excessive and inappropriate. The Right is seeking to celebrate itself.”
After being caught in tax fraud accusations, Mr Berlusconi was banned from politics – but he made a return to the public eye when his Forza Italia party entered into a coalition government, led by Giorgia Meloni.
Mr Berlusconi had been fraught with illness over the last few years, his health declining until eventually it was announced he had been diagnosed with a rare type of blood cancer.
The politician stepped down as prime minister in 2011 after dominating Italian politics for 17 years, as he faced a number of scandals, including outrage over his infamous "bunga bunga" sex parties.