29 Sep 2012

Pope’s butler goes on trial for leaking Vatican documents

The former butler of Pope Benedict XVI appears in court in relation to the leaking of sensitive Vatican documents to the media.

Pope Benedict and Paolo Gabriele (Reuters)

Paolo Gabriele (pictured bottom left) is charged with the aggravated theft of hundreds of documents which alleged corruption in the Vatican’s dealings with Italian companies, and detailed power struggles between cardinals.

Mr Gabriele, who was arrested in May and is currently under house arrest, explained his actions by saying there was “evil and corruption everywhere in the Church” and that “a shock, perhaps by using the media, could be a healthy thing to bring the Church back on the right track.”

Many of the stolen documents appeared in the book His Holiness: Pope Benedict XVI’s secret papers by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi. Despite originally denying the theft, Gabriele later confessed to passing the documents to Mr Nuzzi.

The butler was a trusted member of the Pope’s staff, who brought the Pope his food and helped dress him. The Vatican’s Secretary of State said in August that the Pope loved Mr Gabriele “like a son”.

Mr Gabriele was indicted alongside Vatican IT expert Claudio Sciarpelletti, who goes opn trial for aiding and abetting the alleged crime. At the hearing today it was decided that the two men will be tried separately, and ajourned the trial of Mr Gabriele until Tuesday.

The Vatican’s spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said a pool of accredited journalists would be able to attend the trial but photographers and TV cameras would not.

Mr Gabriele faces a potential sentence of four years in prison if convicted by the three-judge Vatican tribunal. However, as he has confessed to the crime and asked for a pardon it is likely that he would receive a considerably more lenient sentence.