Thousands at state funeral Berlusconi in Milan cathedral
Thousands of people said goodbye in Milan to Silvio Berlusconi, who died Monday at the age of 86. The former prime minister, media tycoon and former president of AC Milan was given a state funeral in the cathedral.
Some two thousand people were present in the cathedral. In addition to family, a series of prominent figures from business, sports and politics were in the church. Among them were President Mattarella and Prime Minister Meloni, the leader of the coalition containing Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party. The service was led by the archbishop of Milan.
In the square in front of the cathedral, thousands of people brought Berlusconi a final salute:
Italy bids farewell to Silvio Berlusconi: ‘He changed our country’
Thousands more stood in the square in front of the cathedral, applauding as the flower-covered coffin containing Berlusconi’s body was carried out of the church. “Silvio will always be our leader,” part of the crowd scanned. Wreaths were arranged in front of the cathedral.
Former Prime Minister Balkenende also attended the funeral. On behalf of the European Commission, Italian Euro Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni was there. Several EU countries had delegated their ambassadors.
Those interested in the square could follow the service on two large screens. On display were flags of Forza Italia and of AC Milan, the club where Berlusconi was at the helm for many years.
In the square, people displayed homemade tributes:
The Italian government has declared a day of mourning, leaving Italian and European flags at half mast in many places. This has only happened in the past 30 years on the death of former prime ministers Giovanni Leone and Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. They, unlike Berlusconi, were also president for some time.
After Berlusconi’s state funeral, the coffin containing his body is taken back to his home in Arcore, north of Milan. Cremation will follow later. The ashes will be kept in the grounds of his villa, in a mausoleum Berlusconi had built in the early 1990s.
The populist Berlusconi was loved and vilified, but in any case is one of Italy’s most influential politicians of recent decades. He was prime minister of four governments, the last of which came to an end in 2011.
Critics say he used his political power for his business interests. A cunning businessman, he built a media empire that included television stations, newspapers and magazines. It made him one of the wealthiest Italians.
In Europe, too, he was one of the most extraordinary government leaders of recent decades. Or in the words of Prime Minister Rutte: “A man of character.”
Berlusconi was embroiled in numerous lawsuits and convicted several times. Notorious was the trial surrounding the sex parties at his villa during his time as prime minister, dubbed bunga-bunga parties. In this case, by the way, he was acquitted.
His controversial statements, contrarian views and fondness for young women earned him much criticism, but a section of Italians always remained behind him.
Berlusconi died Monday at a hospital in Milan, where he was being treated for leukemia.