Pope Benedict’s one-time closest servant is sentenced to 18 months after being convicted by a Vatican court. But the Pontiff may pardon him.
Paolo Gabriele had admitted being the source of the so-called VatiLeaks revelations – allegations of financial corruption and factional in-fighting at the highest levels of the Catholic Church.
Highly sensitive material from private correspondence to the Pope was leaked to Italian journalists earlier this year, sparking an investigation in the world’s smallest city-state, where the Pope rules as absolute monarch.
But Gabriele claims he purloined the Pope’s letters out of love for Benedict and the Church.
He told investigators before the trial began that he leaked the documents because he saw “evil and corruption everywhere in the Church” and that information was being hidden from the Pope.
He told the court today: “What I feel most strongly inside myself is the conviction that I acted exclusively out of love, I would say a visceral love, for the Church of Christ and its visible representative.
“If I have to repeat it, I am not a thief,” he added.
After deliberating for two hours, the head of the three-judge panel, wearing a black robe with gold tassels, read the verdict with the opening words: “In the name of Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, gloriously reigning, the court has invoked the Holy Trinity and has reached its sentence.”
The prosecution had asked for a three-year sentence but the judge said he had given Gabriele a shorter jail term because he had no previous criminal record.
A Vatican spokesman said the Pope would “most likely” pardon Paolo Gabriele, which would mean he would not have to serve his sentence.
Gabriele’s lawyer, Cristiana Arru, told Reuters she did not plan to appeal because she felt the sentence was “a just one”.
“He is a serene man. He placed himself before justice and is ready to accept any of the consequences,” she said after visiting the Gabriele family in their apartment in the Vatican.
“He put his life in the hands of divine providence first and human justice second. He is a man who has no fear,” she added.
Earlier this week Gabriele accused the Holy See’s police of mistreating him while in custody. Members of the force in turn depicted the butler as a man obsessed with the occult, Masonic lodges and secret services.
The trial, which started last Saturday, threw open the window on a betrayal of trust and sensitive secrets in the Vatican.
A former member of the small, select group known as “the papal family”, Gabriele was one of fewer than 10 people who had a key to an elevator leading directly to the pope’s apartments.
In the course of the trial, intimate details emerged of the inner workings of an institution long renowned for its secrecy.