Silvo Berlusconi: ex-Italian PM receives send off with state funeral - controversy over funeral explained

The former Italian Prime Minister continues to divide his country after his death, with some criticising the state funeral offered to him

Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi was laid to rest with a state funeral on 14 June 2023. (Credit: Getty Images)Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi was laid to rest with a state funeral on 14 June 2023. (Credit: Getty Images)
Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi was laid to rest with a state funeral on 14 June 2023. (Credit: Getty Images)

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been laid to rest at a state funeral the Milan today following his death at the age of 86.

Berlusconi, who served as head of the Italian government for four terms, passed away on Monday 12 June from complications relating to a severe form of leukemia. His death led to the Italian government announcing a state funeral for the former leader and a national day of mourning.

During the funeral, Archbishop Mario Delpini said of the business mogul and politician: "What can we say about Silvio Berlusconi? He was a man: a desire for life, a desire for love, a desire for joy."

However, the fanfare and tradition offered to Berlusconi was criticised by some members of the Italian public and left-leaning politicians.

The 86-year-old is due to be cremated, with his ashes scattered in a masoleum he built in the ground of his villa outside Milan.

Who attended Silvio Berlusconi's funeral?

The ceremony was held in the Milan Cathedral and was attended by 2,300 people, including notable Italian politicians such as the current serving Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and Berlsconi's family including his partner Marta Fascina and his daughter Marina. Most world leaders opted out of attending the ceremony in Milan, with the only notable figures being Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, raqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani of Qatar.

The absence of Russian leader Vladimir Putin was also noted, with whom Berlusconi shared a close friendship with during his time in power. Berlusconi is believed to have remained close to his Russian counterpart until his death, with the ex-PM defending Putin's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

However, the Kremlin confirmed that the Russian government had not received an invitation to attend the ceremony.

A further 15,000 people gathered outside the Cathedral to pay tribute to their former leader.

Supporters, who watched the ceremony on large screens which had been erected outside the Cathedral, cheered for Berlusconi, chanting 'Silvio, Silvio' as his coffin was carried in. Others waved flags of AC Milan, the football club previously owned by the controversial politician.

Why has Berlusconi's state funeral been criticised?

However, his high-profile funeral received some criticism from the public and politicians, who believed that the controversy-riddled figure did not deserve such a glowing send-off.

Meloni attracted criticism for taking the unprecedented decision to announce a day of national mourning. The day itself was not given as a public holiday in Italy, but served as a symbolic tribute to Berlusconi, with public flags flown at half mast, with the European Commission and European Parliament also deciding to honour the former PM.

The controversy surrounds Berlusconi's legacy and the impact he had on Italian politics. Some were upset at the fact he received such a grand funeral after being banned from politics for a tax fraud conviction in 2012 and a number of high profile scandals.

His career was blighted by reports of sex-fuelled parties and accusations of corruption. This included the imfamous 'bunga bunga' parties reportedly held at his lavish private villa he owned near Milan, which featured a number of young women engaging in erotic dancing and sexual activities.

Former centre-left minister Rosy Bindi was quoted as stating that the state funeral and day of national mourning was an "inappropriate sanctification" of Berlusconi.

Tomaso Montanari, rector of the University for Foreigners of Siena, wrote on social media that he would not be flying the university's flags at half mast to honour Berlusconi, added that he believed that institutions were being "forced to do so" by Meloni's decision to declare the day of national mourning.

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