Italy's top bishop has issued scathing criticism of Premier Silvio Berlusconi over his sex scandal by insisting that public officials must control themselves and warning of the damage being done to Italians and their reputation.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Italian bishops' conference, said Italians were fed up with the scandal and the entire political scene that has been dominated by the scandal.

Prosecutors have placed Berlusconi and three associates under investigation, alleging he paid for sex with a 17-year-old girl nicknamed Ruby and used his office to cover it up. Berlusconi has denied the allegations and accused prosecutors of a politically motivated witch hunt. Ruby, who is now 18, has denied she had sex with Berlusconi.