| 23 April 2024, Tuesday |

Berlusconi’s funeral: Ex-PM divides Italy even in death

On Wednesday, Italy said farewell to four-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at a funeral befitting the business tycoon’s colorful life, with mourners chanting football chants and politicians arguing over a day of national mourning.

Crowds yelled “Silvio, Silvio” as his coffin was taken inside Milan’s medieval cathedral, backed by ceremonially clad Carabinieri police with plumed helmets.

Inside were some 2,300 mourners, including the women, politicians and businessmen who had accompanied the 86-year-old during his rise to power and riches.

Marta Fascina, the 33-year-old politician who was Berlusconi’s partner during his final years, wept alongside Marina, his eldest daughter, who is expected to inherit his media empire and, some speculate, even his political legacy.

Berlusconi will be cremated and his ashes held in a mausoleum he built for himself and his family in the grounds of his villa outside Milan, a source close to the family told Reuters.

The conservative Forza Italia party he founded dominated Italian politics for much of the last 30 years, while his business empire stretched from real estate to publishing.

Berlusconi was a highly divisive figure who set the mould for other businessmen-turned-politicians like former U.S. President Donald Trump, with a career punctuated by scandals and legal trials.

The funeral homily by Milan’s Archbishop Mario Delpini appeared to acknowledge his excesses as well as his qualities.

“What can we say about Silvio Berlusconi? He was a man: a desire for life, a desire for love, a desire for joy.”

Police said around 15,000 people followed the funeral on the giant screens installed outside the cathedral, and arguments broke out between the vast majority of Berlusconi admirers and a few detractors who had come to criticise him.

“I was lucky enough to be a part of Forza Italia for 18 years. I was also lucky enough to meet him,” said Lucia Adiele, a Forza Italia member who travelled nearly 1,000 km (620 miles) from her home in Altamura, southern Italy.

“The least I could do was to be here and say goodbye for the last time.”

  • Reuters