Trial of pope’s butler to start September 29: Vatican

September 17, 2012 6:56 pm
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Pope Benedict XVI’s butler Paolo Gabriele rides inside the Popemobile in April 2012/AFP
VATICAN CITY, Sep 17 – Pope Benedict XVI’s former butler and a Vatican computer technician will go on trial starting September 29 on charges of leaking secret papers that revealed fraud and intrigue in the Holy See.

The butler, Paolo Gabriele, has told investigators he was acting as an agent for the Holy Spirit to rid the Catholic Church of “evil and corruption”.

He is accused of aggravated theft, which carries a sentence of up to six years in prison, in a scandal dubbed “Vatileaks” by the Italian press.

Gabriele will stand trial together with Claudio Sciarpelletti, who according to court papers played a secondary messenger role in an unprecedented scandal that has threatened to expose major rifts at the heart of the Catholic Church.

Gabriele is accused of passing confidential documents from Vatican offices including those of the pope’s personal secretary to investigative journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, who published them in a book “His Holiness” earlier this year.

Gabriele’s lawyer Carlo Fusco resigned last month, telling AFP that he had fallen out with his friend and client “over defence strategy”.

“We took the decision together to part ways,” the lawyer said.

Gabriele, a 46-year-old father of three, was arrested on May 23 after police found confidential papers and copying equipment in his home inside the Vatican.

He was held for 53 days in a Vatican “security room” as the Holy See has no jail, and was only allowed out to attend mass on Sundays. He has since been living under house arrest and has been receiving “spiritual assistance.”

Vatican watchers say that the pope is likely to pardon Gabriele and Sciarpelletti eventually – if only to spare the Church from further scandal.

Experts also point out that if found guilty and incarcerated, the two would have to be transferred from Vatican jurisdiction to a prison in Italy.

Gabriele, a 46-year-old father of three, was arrested on May 23 after police found confidential papers and copying equipment in his home inside the Vatican.

A psychologist’s report on the butler released earlier this month showed he had a normal but “fragile” state of mind but highlighted a “tragic contradiction” between his intentions to help the pope and his later acts.

So far around 30 religious and lay people have been questioned in connection with the case by a special commission of cardinals set up for the job.

The results of their inquiry have not been made public but experts say there will likely be more revelations of high-level involvement in the leaks.

The documents published by Nuzzi focused mainly on rising opposition to the leadership of Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, rows over Vatican appointments and apparent fraud in the day-to-day running of the Vatican.

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