Relations between Silvio Berlusconi and Italy’s Catholic Church have been strained by a war of words in the press.Il Giornale, a national newspaper owned by the premier’s brother Paolo, fuelled the spat. It dug up a sex scandal involving Dino Boffo, the influential director of Avvenire, the daily newspaper of the Italian Bishops’ Conference. The Catholic paper had criticised Berlusconi for his lifestyle and Boffo was accused of hypocrisy. But the Church does not see it that way and is standing by Boffo. Stressing its support, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Bishops’ Conference, denounced the attack by the Berlusconi family’s paper as “sickening and very serious.” While Berlusconi has publicly disassociated himself from the article, reports say it is the reason why the Vatican cancelled a meeting between its number two official and the prime minister. Berlusconi has launched legal action against media in Italy and abroad over coverage of his private life.