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Pope's butler: trial to end tomorrow

05 October 2012


In the spotlight: a Vatican spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi, answers questions about Paolo Gabriele on Saturday

In the spotlight: a Vatican spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi, answers questions about Paolo Gabriele on Saturday

THE trial of Paolo Gabriele, Pope Benedict XVI's former butler, for stealing and leaking the Pope's personal papers (News, 1 June), is due to end tomorrow. His disclosures, first published in a book last May, exposed malpractice and power struggles at the highest levels of the Roman Catholic Church.

Mr Gabriele has admitted guilt, but told investigators that he had acted as an "agent of the Holy Spirit" because he saw "evil and corruption everywhere in the Church", which he wanted to help root out, "because the Pope was not sufficiently informed". He believed that the shock of the disclosures "could be a healthy thing to bring the Church back on the right track".

Mr Gabriele, who is married and has three children, faces up to four years in prison, but is widely expected to be pardoned by the Pope once the Vatican court, which is sitting under a 19th-century criminal code, has delivered its judgment.

When the hearing opened last week, Mr Gabriele's lawyer, Cristiana Arru, had asked for the results of an inquiry by three cardinals to be admitted. The court refused. Instead, evidence was based solely on an investigation by a Vatican prosecutor and the Vatican police.

The police chief, Domenico Giani, said that 82 boxes of evidence had been seized at the butler's Vatican apartment, and in the papal summer residence. They also found gifts that had been intended for the Pope, including a gold nugget, a cheque for €100,000, and a 16th-century copy of the Aeneid.

Some of the letters were written to Pope Benedict by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, currently the Vatican ambassador to Washington, who was deputy governor of the Vatican City at the time. In one, he complains that, when he took office in 2009, he discovered corruption, nepotism, and cronyism which was linked to the awarding of contracts to outside companies at inflated prices.

Archbishop Viganò also accused Vatican officials of a smear campaign against him because he cleaned up the purchasing procedures.

Cameras were banned from the hearing. Eight reporters were allowed in, but they were barred from using their own pens in case they contained recorders or cameras.

When Mr Gabriele gave evidence on Tuesday, he complained that his cell was so small that he could not extend his arms, and the light was permanently on. Vatican police said his conditions respected international standards. The light was on for security reasons, and to stop him from harming himself.

He told the court that he had acted alone, but had "many contacts" in the Vatican, where there was "widespread unease".

At first, he had no intention of leaking the papers for publication. "I was looking for someone in a position of authority to whom I could let off steam in confidence. The situation inside the Vatican had become intolerable - not only to me. There were many other people who felt the same way as I did.

"I made two copies of important documents, in order to prove that I had done this and was ready to pay the consequences. I was not the only one, over a period of years, to provide documents to the press."

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