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Pope commiserates with Berlusconi over assault

world Updated: Dec 15, 2009 13:55 IST

Pope Benedict XVI has sent a telegram to Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi deploring the violent attack against the premier, the Vatican daily Osservatore Romano reported on Tuesday.

Berlusconi, 73, is in hospital in the northern city of Milan after he was struck in the face at a political rally Sunday by a man believed to have psychiatric problems.

The papal telegram Monday deplored the attack and expressed the pontiff's "fatherly closeness" with Berlusconi, wishing him "a speedy recovery". It was signed by Vatican secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone, the Osservatore Romano said.

Berlusconi suffered a broken nose and teeth, heavy bleeding and facial injuries when 42-year-old Massimo Tartaglia hit him in the face outside Milan's cathedral with a souvenir statuette of the Gothic landmark.

Berlusconi's personal physician Alberto Zangrillo said Berlusconi was having "great difficulty" eating Monday and to have been shaken by the attack.

Doctors at Milan's San Raffaele hospital said Monday they would be keeping the premier in hospital a second night and have estimated it will take him 20 days to recover.

"We'll review the situation tomorrow (Tuesday), but it is not certain we will be discharging him then," said Zangrillo.

"The consequences are worse than what we first thought, and for this reason we won't be making any predictions in the next 24-36 hours."

Tartaglia has been arrested and was Monday questioned by police. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni expressed his concern about the lapse in Berlusconi's security after meeting senior police and political leaders in Milan to discuss the incident.

"He was at risk of being seriously injured, or killed," said Maroni, adding that the attack was "a very serious event".