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Thousands pay final respects to former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi at state funeral

Thousands of mourners gathered to bid a final farewell to former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

A state funeral was held in Milan on Wednesday, a national day of mourning, for the divisive and domineering four-time premier, who died on Monday aged 86 in a hospital where he was being treated for chronic leukaemia.

The ceremony was held in the city’s famous Duomo cathedral, with Hungarian President Viktor Orban and Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, among the high-ranking foreign dignitaries who attended.

People gather outside the Duomo Cathedral on the day of the funeral of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, in Milan, Italy June 14, 2023. REUTERS/Claudia Greco
Crowds gathered outside the Duomo Cathedral in Milan on Wednesday

Pallbearers carry the coffin of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi during his funeral at the Duomo Cathedral, in Milan, Italy June 14, 2023. REUTERS/Claudia Greco

Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni – who faced criticism for her government’s decision to hold a state funeral and declare a rare national day of mourning – were also present at the funeral, together with three former Italian leaders.


On Wednesday afternoon, Ms Meloni shared a tribute to her predecessor with her 1.9 million Twitter followers, posting a video with the caption which translated as: “Thanks Silvio. We will not forget you.”

Mr Orban also tweeted a final farewell to the late Italian leader, hailing him as “a great statesman and a true friend”, adding: “Life is emptier without you.”

Crowds filled a piazza outside the Duomo to watch the service on two giant screens, erupting in applause as the casket was lifted out of the hearse and taken into the cathedral.

Crowds watched the state funeral on a giant screen in Milan Pic: AP
Pic: AP

Mr Berlusconi's brother, Paolo, far right, pictured with the former premier's children, Eleonora (left) Barbara (second right) and Pier Silvio (centre) Pic: AP
Mr Berlusconi’s brother, Paolo (right), with the ex-premier’s children, Eleonora (left) Barbara (second right) and Pier Silvio (centre). Pic: AP

(L-R) Berlusconi's son, Luigi; daughter, Marina; partner Marta Fascina, and daughter Barbara seen paying their respects Pic: AP
(L-R) Berlusconi’s son Luigi; daughter Marina; partner Marta Fascina; and daughter Barbara paying their respects. Pic: AP

Mr Berlusconi‘s partner, Marta Fascina, together with his brother, Paolo, and children Luigi, Marina, Barbara, Pier Silvio and Eleonora, were also pictured at the funeral.

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His body will be cremated before his ashes are taken to the family mausoleum in the grounds of his villa in the northern town of Arcore, about 20km northeast of Milan, a family source said.

Mr Berlusconi’s coffin was expected to be transported to Villa San Martino ahead of cremation at the Valenziano Panta Rei Crematorium Temple, near the city of Alessandria.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella stands near the coffin during the state funeral of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at Duomo Cathedral in Milan, Italy June 14, 2023. Italian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Inside the Duomo Cathedral during the state funeral

Berlusconi's coffin is carried out of the Duomo cathedral after the service Pic: AP
Berlusconi’s coffin is carried out of the Duomo cathedral after the service Pic: AP

The mausoleum, built by sculptor Pietro Cascella in the early 1990s, is a white marble building with an underground mortuary. A sarcophagus of the former Italian leader stands at the centre.

Mr Berlusconi’s family held a private wake on Tuesday at one of his villas near Milan.

Paolo Scaroni, the chairman of Mr Berlusconi’s beloved AC Milan football club, together with former players including Giovanni Galli, Demetrio Albertini, Franco Baresi and Daniele Massaro, were among the prominent figures from Italian football in attendance at the funeral.

From cruise ship crooner to Italian prime minister, Berlusconi’s legacy is as complicated as it is divisive

Alex Rossi - Middle East correspondent

Alex Rossi

International correspondent


Crowds of Berlusconi supporters gathered early at Milan Cathedral.

Many of them were waving Forza Italia flags, his political party.

All of them had come to mourn a man they thought had been a great Italian and an amazing leader of the country.

But the man – who started as a cruise ship crooner, went on to become a property and media baron and four times prime minister – was hugely controversial.

Unsurprisingly, his legacy is as complicated as it is divisive.

Silvio Berlusconi was a unique political talent and would be a forerunner for right wing populists to come.

He was the first post-modern politician. He didn’t offer voters a boring programme of policies, he offered something far more mercurial – himself.

Using his skill as an orator and his media power he created a cult of personality and became an electoral juggernaut.

Often embroiled in legal battles he railed against elites, portraying himself as an outsider and a victim.

In death though – afforded a state funeral and a national day of mourning – he has cemented his place, for better or worse, as a towering figure of the political establishment.

Certainly he was one of the biggest political figures since Benito Mussolini.

They were joined by former England manager, Fabio Capello; the president of Lazio, Claudio Lotito; and Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis.

The outpouring of grief comes as Italians remain split over whether Mr Berlusconi’s influence was for the better or worse – and whether he deserved a state funeral.

Read more:
Many loved him, many hated him – reaction to scandal-hit premier’s death
What happened when Berlusconi invited the media to the ‘bunga bunga’
Berlusconi leaves long-term girlfriend for woman 53 years younger

The billionaire media mogul turned politician pictured with partner Marta Fascina in Milan in February 2022 Pic: AP
Mr Berlusconi’s partner Marta Fascina in February 2022. Pic: AP

The decision to give the former premier a state funeral and declare a national day of mourning has divided Italy Pic: AP
Pic: AP

In his eulogy, Archbishop of Milan, Mario Delpini, described the former premier as a “businessman who found success and failure, a politician who won and lost, a notoriety-seeking personality who had admirers and detractors, those who applaud him and those who detest him.”

Former European Parliament candidate, Barbara Cacellari, said protests over how to officially mark Mr Berlusconi’s death showed a lack of respect.

“He is a person who represents the history of this country,” she said, adding: “No one is without stains, I think.”

Mr Berlusconi with his friend, Russian President Vladimir Putin, pictured at a NATO summit in 2002 Pic: AP
Mr Berlusconi with his friend, Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2002. Pic: AP

However, critics of Mr Berlusconi, who had an enduring friendship with Vladimir Putin, suggested his leadership has stifled Italy’s growth.

Respected foreign correspondent Beppe Severgnini said the former leader “tapped all of our weaknesses: moral, fiscal, sexual, everything”.


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