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Page last updated at 16:55 GMT, Thursday, 14 August 2008 17:55 UK

Italy angered by 'fascist' label

A Gypsy girl in Spain protests against Italian government measures
There have been protests in Europe against Italy's measures

The Italian government has lashed out at an influential Catholic magazine which suggested fascism might be resurfacing within the government.

An editorial in the Famiglia Cristiana weekly is critical of government policy towards the Roma community.

Two cabinet ministers said the tone of the article was "irresponsible".

The Vatican has also distanced itself from the publication with a papal spokesman saying it "does not reflect the views of the Holy See".

In an article due to appear in the magazine next week, editorialist Beppe Del Colle writes: "Let's hope their fears are unfounded that another form of fascism is looming here".

'Bludgeoning tone'

The article is accompanied by a famous image of a Jewish child being searched in the Warsaw ghetto.

The magazine has repeatedly denounced tough new measures introduced by Silvio Berlusconi's rightwing government targeting the Roma, or Gypsy, communities whom officials blame for much of the country's violent and petty crime.

One junior minister, Carlo Giovanardi, attacked the magazine saying: "You are fascists, with your bludgeoning tone".

The head of Mr Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party in the upper house of parliament, Maurizio Gasparri, said he would sue the magazine's editor over comments he made in a newspaper interview.

Correspondents say the government's left-wing opponents often label it fascist, but the allegation is more damaging when it comes from a publication linked to the Catholic Church, to which many centre-right politicians and their supporters swear allegiance.

Papal spokesman Federico Lombardi said the article did not express the views of the Italian bishops.

In response, the magazine emphasised its editorial independence.

Director Antonio Sciortino, a Catholic priest, said "we have never dreamt of being the official organ of the Holy See".




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