Pope's butler gets 18 months in prison

2012-10-06 12:37
Pope Benedict XVI's butler Paolo Gabriele, right, carries the pontiff's bags as they arrive at Ciampino military airport in Rome. (File, AP)

Pope Benedict XVI's butler Paolo Gabriele, right, carries the pontiff's bags as they arrive at Ciampino military airport in Rome. (File, AP)

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Vatican City - Pope Benedict XVI's former butler Paolo Gabriele on Saturday got 18 months in prison for stealing secret documents from the Vatican that reveal fraud and intrigue in the tiny state.

Presiding judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre gave the ex-butler three years but immediately reduced the sentence to 18 months on the grounds of his past service rendered to the Catholic Church and his apology to the pope for betraying him.

"In the name of his holiness Pope Benedict XVI, who reigns in glory, and invoking the Holy Trinity... this court sentences the defendant to three years in prison," the judge said as Gabriele looked on impassively.

"Considering the absence of a criminal record, of the subjective though erroneous motivation, and the acknowledgement of having betrayed the trust of the holy father, it reduces the sentence to one year and six months," he added.

Sensitive documents

Gabriele was found guilty of stealing hundreds of sensitive Vatican documents from the pope's palace, including letters from cardinals and politicians and papers that the pontiff himself had marked "To Be Destroyed".

The Vatican's prosecutor, Nicola Picardi, had called for the former butler to go to jail for three years.

"It was a good sentence," said Gabriele's lawyer Cristiana Arru, who added that she would "have to evaluate" whether her client would appeal the ruling which brought to an end an expeditious trial that began just a week ago.

In his final statement, Gabriele said he had "acted out of visceral love for the church of Christ and of its leader on earth."

"I do not feel that I am a thief," he added, as Arru called on the judge to be lenient on a man who was driven by "a moral motivation" and who had by no means cooked up a "scheme or plot" aimed at damaging the church or the pope.

The former butler had claimed from the start that he wanted to root out "evil and corruption" at the heart of the Roman Catholic Church after observing that the 85-year-old pontiff was not well informed and perhaps even "manipulated".

Using the codename "Maria", Gabriele met with an Italian journalist over several months and passed him the confidential documents.

He had admitted responsibility for the leaks. While claiming to be "innocent" of the charge of theft, he said he felt "guilty" of betraying the trust the pope had placed in him.

The personal letter he wrote to Benedict to ask for his forgiveness no doubt influenced the judge's decision to cut his sentence in half.

Many experts have said he may receive a pardon from the pope, who has been following the case closely.

Read more on:    paolo gabriele  |  pope benedict xvi  |  pope francis  |  vatican city

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