Italy buries an era with Berlusconi's funeral | International

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When the Archbishop of Milan, Mario Enrico Delpini, delivered his homily on Wednesday, all of Italy must have felt the need to reckon with its recent past. Shortly after, after four in the afternoon, the coffin carrying the body of Silvio Berlusconi left through the door of the Milan Cathedral escorted by six carabinieri. From that moment on, a time absolutely marked by his figure was considered liquidated. Father of almost all current political phenomena, by action or reaction, and builder of an aesthetic, cultural and social mirror in which the country looked at itself to leave behind the years of stagnation, that wooden box carries behind it a whole was.

Berlusconi's death constitutes for Italy the end of the so-called Second Republic —the time that had liquidated the era of Christian Democracy— and the opening of a window of uncertainty. His heirs, politicians and businessmen, will now compete for that enormous space. It is not the first time that Il Cavaliere, three times prime minister, telecommunications magnate and excessive man like no other, renders accounts. The priest who preceded the archbishop in the ceremony mentioned the trial before Christ. But, above all, the court of its own history and the judgment of the citizens will prevail. Also what he leaves on earth as a political testament.

Precisely, Berlusconi died on Monday (at the age of 86) shortly before his best student, former US President Donald Trump, was summoned to testify in court, as the owner of Mediaset himself did so many times. And sitting in the front rows of the Milan Duomo were the president of the Council of Ministers, Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the League, Matteo Salvini, and his predecessor, Umberto Bossi; or the former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. All of them creatures born in the heat of the political phenomenon that Berlusconi constituted. Forza Italia, his party, will now be in the hands of Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, under the supervision of his daughter Marina.

The funeral began with Milanese punctuality. Some 2,000 people entered the temple and another 12,000 followed the ceremony from the Duomo square, the scene of its first political rally in 1994, through four giant screens. The city, cordoned off. The center, impassable. The idea was to create a corridor for the authorities that had to arrive. However, there were no big names among the list of rulers who took a plane to participate in the ceremony. They were the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán; the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad, or the President of Iraq, Abdul Latif Rashid, on a visit to Italy. On behalf of the European Union, the economic commissioner, Paolo Gentiloni, attended.

The departure of the coffin – made of Honduran mahogany wood – from the Arcore mansion was broadcast live by helicopters, drones and various vehicles. It would take more than the king of television, who united entertainment and politics, would not have had a Show at the height of his talent for the medium. A ceremony of popular and postmodern ecumenism. Because two hours before, relatives began to arrive, politicians, soccer players, ministers, old cabaret artists, ex-wives, relatives... A brief historiography also of the advances in plastic surgery. An amazing parade from an entire era, from a universe that Berlusconi built and managed to implant like a pacemaker in the soul of Italy.

The last to arrive, as the protocol indicates, were the President of the Council of Ministers, Giorgia Meloni, and the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, both applauded wildly. Outside, AC Milan flags fluttered from the arms of the team's ultras, who chanted: "One president, there is only one president." Others chanted the ideas that delighted Berlusconi: "He who doesn't bounce is a Communist!" And some, like one of the Mediaset presenters who broadcast the moment, were moved by synthesizing the Tutti Frutti ideology that led to berlusconism.

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The cathedral was already a set at that time, the staging of the power of the deceased. An unintentional homage to prophets of show business like Guy Debord. In the front row — all in blue, Berlusconi's favorite color — the direct family, the children, and his last partner, the 33-year-old deputy Marta Fascina. In the same row of benches, but further away, is his second wife and mother of three of his five children, Veronica Lario. Behind, ministers and the cast of trusted men from all those years. “Live, not suffer with insults, with decadence. Keep trying”, the Archbishop of Milan had already begun in his homily/praise of Berlusconi, undoubtedly quite descriptive of the character. “Love and want to be loved. Looking for love as a promise of life, as a complicated story. Be happy and love the holidays. Being happy and wishing that others were happy too ”, he continued while the eldest son of the tycoon, Pier Silvio, agreed.

The honors reserved for Berlusconi, that of a State funeral in style and, above all, the declaration of national mourning, have been widely questioned. The Italian Parliament will remain closed for a week: an unprecedented event and reserved for events, historical tragedies. The flags of public institutions —although some have resisted this— will remain at half mast for two days as a sign of respect. And Berlusconi's coffin will receive all military honors during his funeral. A protocol reverence that contrasts with his criminal record, with which he went through dozens of processes —including prostitution and corruption of minors—, although he was only definitively convicted of tax fraud. An image, however, that also speaks of his time.

The coffin carrying Silvio Berlusconi left the cathedral after four in the afternoon, closing behind him the doors of an era with which all Italians will now have to reckon. The tycoon will be cremated and his ashes will rest in the mausoleum that was built to spend eternity with his friends in the gardens of the Arcore mansion. That will be the last act.

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