St. Pope John Paul II greets former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jun 12, 2023 / 09:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis expressed his condolences Monday after the death of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Berlusconi died on June 12 at the age of 86. He had been hospitalized in Milan for leukemia treatments since Friday.

The Italian billionaire media baron was Italy’s longest-serving head of government. He was first elected in 1994 after founding the Forza Italia political party, but an investigation into corruption in his business dealings led to his resignation at the end of the year and later convictions of fraud and corruption, which were eventually overturned. 

Berlusconi went on to serve two more terms from 2001 to 2006 and from 2008 to 2011. He often made headlines for his decadent parties, sex scandals, and his 2013 conviction for tax fraud.

The pope sent a condolence telegram from the hospital to the Italian leader’s oldest daughter, Maria Elvira Berlusconi, a few hours after his death was announced by his television network. 

The telegram sent on the pope’s behalf by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said: “Pope Francis, having been informed of the death of your beloved father, Senator Silvio Berlusconi, wishes to extend you and your family his closeness, assuring heartfelt participation in the mourning for the loss of a leading figure in Italian political life, who held public responsibilities with energetic temperament.”

“His Holiness invokes from the Lord eternal peace for him and consolation of heart for those who mourn his passing. I join the condolences with fervent remembrance in prayer.”