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Papal conclave: anti-mafia police raid offices in diocese of frontrunner | World news | guardian.co.uk

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Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan – and reportedly the hot favourite to be the next pope – suffered a blow.

Anti-mafia detectives swooped on homes, offices, clinics and hospitals in Lombardy, the region around Milan, and elsewhere. A statement said the dawn raids were part of an investigation into “corruption linked to tenders by, and supplies to, hospitals”.

Healthcare in Lombardy is the principal responsibility of the regional administration, which for the past 18 years has been run by Roberto Formigoni, a childhood friend of Scola and the leading political representative of the Communion and Liberation fellowship. Until recently, Scola was seen as the conservative group’s most distinguished ecclesiastical spokesman.

But he has progressively loosened his ties to Communion and Liberation, and in early 2012 publicly rebuked the movement after its leader was found to have written to Pope Benedict, implicitly criticising the cardinal’s liberal predecessors in the Milan archdiocese.

The regional administration headed by Formigoni – a member of Silvio Berlusconi‘s party – collapsed last October amid a welter of accusations regarding alleged corruption and misconduct. The final blow came when one of his regional ministers was arrested, accused of buying votes from the ‘Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia.

Formigoni himself is a formal suspect in an investigation into corruption and conspiracy. He denies the accusations.

Among those arrested on Tuesday was Massimo Guarischi, who in 2009 was given a five-year jail sentence after being convicted of conspiracy and auction-rigging. Guarischi is said to have organised expensive holidays for Formigoni that are central to the investigation into the former governor’s affairs.

Scola, who has headed the Milan archdiocese since 2011, is regarded as the champion of a largely non-Italian faction that is challenging the entrenched power of the Vatican cardinals. He was close to the last pope, whose household was run by women members of Communion and Liberation.

He entered the conclave as favourite after the Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that his supporters were confident he had the support of up to 50 of the 115 cardinal-electors.

But Scola’s candidacy has been overshadowed by his past links to a movement that has been linked with pervasive sleaze in Lombardy.By the time Formigoni dissolved the regional assembly last year, 13 members of the governing majority were under investigation, suspected of offences ranging from taking bribes to incitement to violence.

Formigoni belongs to the Memores Domini, a core group of Communion and Liberation members pledged to live by the values of fraternal love, obedience and poverty.

At the pre-conclave mass in St Peter’s basilica in Rome, Sodano called on the faithful and electors to overcome divisions and unite behind the next pope.

Papal conclave: anti-mafia police raid offices in diocese of frontrunner | World news | guardian.co.uk.

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