Pope’s butler on trial for theft

2012-09-29 18:11

Pope Benedict’s former butler went on trial yesterday for using his intimate access to the papal desk to steal and leak explosive documents in what he said was an attempt to clean up corruption in the Vatican.

The 46-year-old Paolo Gabriele, who served the pope his meals and helped him dress, was being tried along with a Vatican computer expert in the city state’s little-used ­tribunal, a small, wood-panelled room with a papal emblem on the ceiling.

Gabriele was arrested in May after police found ­confidential documents in his apartment inside the Vatican, throwing a global media spotlight on an institution battling to defend its reputation from allegations of corruption.

A three-judge panel will decide the fate of Gabriele, whom the pope used to call “Paoletto” (little Paul), now described in Vatican documents as “the defendant”.

The whistle-blower, who says he was trying to expose graft at the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, is charged with aggravated theft for stealing and leaking the pontiff’s personal papers, and could be jailed for four years.

According to an indictment last August, Gabriele told ­investigators he had acted because he saw “evil and ­corruption everywhere in the Church”, and wanted to help root it out “because the pope was not sufficiently informed”.

Gabriele, who said he saw himself as an “agent of the Holy Spirit”, is widely expected to be found guilty.

The trial will be based on a 19th-century Italian penal code.

Claudio Sciarpelletti, the computer expert charged along with Gabriele, could be jailed for up to a year.

Since the papal state has no prison, Gabriele would serve time in an Italian jail, though the pope is widely expected to pardon him.


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