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Page last updated at 10:36 GMT, Monday, 23 June 2008 11:36 UK

Pope denies Berlusconi communion

Silvio Berlusconi and his wife Veronica
Mr Berlusconi (right) himself is divorced and married a second time

The Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's hopes of seeing communion extended to divorcees like himself have been quashed by Pope Benedict XVI.

Newspapers reported on Sunday that while attending a ceremony in Sardinia Mr Berlusconi had asked a bishop when the Church planned to change the rules.

But the Pope told a conference in Canada that communion can only be received by those free of major sin.

"We have to do everything... to receive [communion] in a pure heart," he said.

No change

Mr Berlusconi has recently begun a major effort to try and get communion granted to divorced and remarried people like himself.

When he light-heartedly asked the Sardinian bishop when this would be possible, he was told he should "turn to a higher power".

But speaking via videolink to a conference in the Canadian province of Quebec, Pope Benedict ruled out any change to the Church's stance.

Although he did not directly address Mr Berlusconi's comments, he said that communion involved "searching without end, through the sacrament of forgiveness, the purity that sin has stained".

"On the other hand, those who cannot take communion because of their situation will find, nevertheless, in the desire to participate in the Eucharist, strength and effect of salvation," he added.


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