Trial of pope's butler starts

2012-09-29 19:55
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's butler, accused of using his access to the pope to steal papers that he thought would expose Vatican corruption, suffered a blow on Saturday's first day of his trial when judges refused to admit evidence from the church's own investigation.

The 46-year-old Paolo Gabriele, an unassuming man who served the pope his meals and helped him dress, looked pale at his first public appearance since May. He smiled as he chatted with his lawyer but often staring into space during a hearing that lasted just under two and a half hours.

Gabriele's arrest in May, after police found confidential documents in his apartment inside the Vatican, not only threw a spotlight on allegations of malpractice but also pointed to a power struggle at the highest levels of the church.

His lawyer, Cristiana Arru, had asked the court to allow as evidence the results of an inquiry by a commission of three cardinals who questioned Vatican employees, including prelates, about the leaks of the documents to Italian media.

But chief judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre, sitting before a crucifix and with a large, framed picture of Benedict looking down from the wall, said the commission answered only to the pope and had "no relevance" to the Vatican City's penal code.

'Evil and corruption'

According to an indictment issued in 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".

Domenico Giani, head of the Vatican police force, told the court that 82 boxes of evidence had been seized in Gabriele's apartments in the Vatican and in the papal summer residence.

Arru had wanted to see the commission's transcripts in the hope that they could help to explain her client's motives.

Instead, trial evidence will be based solely on the results of the investigation by a Vatican prosecutor and Vatican police.

The trial is being held under a 19th-century criminal code, so Gabriele did not enter a plea and did not speak. He is expected to testify when the trial resumes on Tuesday.

Read more on:    roman catholic church  |  paolo gabriele  |  pope benedict xvi  |  pope francis  |  vatican city  |  religion
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