A LEADING churchman whose Jewish mother fled Nazi Germany as a teenager has called on Paolo Di Canio to renounce fascism, saying the new Sunderland boss’ politics were “deeply troubling”.

The Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, the Dean of Durham, said fascism was nearly the undoing of the world, the North-East would not understand Di Canio’s “fascist, not racist” distinction and unless he renounced fascism, he would be associated with far-right groups such as the British National Party.

The Dean’s open letter, published on his blog, came as pictures emerged of Di Canio mourning at the funeral of Italian fascist leader Paolo Signorelli, who was jailed for – although later cleared of – the bombing of Bologna station in 1980 which killed 85.

Campaign group Kick It Out called on the 44-year-old to state his commitment to anti-racism, while former teammate Chris Powell called his appointment “a bold decision” but sidestepped political questions.

Di Canio will take charge of his first game on Sunday, as Sunderland travel to Chelsea.

But police are already focused on the following Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby, which will be even more tense given this week’s events.

Chief Superintendent Steve Neill called on both Newcastle and Sunderland fans to help make the match a success, but said trouble would not be tolerated.

In his blog entry, the Dean, whose mother, Dorothee Lyser, fled Dusseldorf as Nazi persecution of the Jews intensified, says Di Canio’s support for Benito Mussolini is “baffling” and he would be naive to think politics and sport could be separated.

He asks whether Di Canio or Sunderland want youngsters to admire fascism, says the club stands to lose support across the world and it “feels hard” to stay loyal.

Yesterday (Tuesday, April 2), Di Canio blasted the furore over his appointment as “ridiculous and pathetic”.

But the row has already led former Foreign Secretary David Miliband to quit as the club’s vice-chairman and the Durham Miners’ Association to demand the return of a colliery banner kept at the Stadium of Light.