Difficult Pentecost for pope as butler probe hurts

VATICAN CITY Sun May 27, 2012 8:42am EDT

1 of 3. The Pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele (bottom L) arrives with Pope Benedict XVI (R) at St. Peter's Square in Vatican, in this file photo taken May 23, 2012. The butler who serves in the apartments of Pope Benedict XVI was arrested on Friday in connection with an investigation into leaks of confidential documents, a senior Vatican source said.

Credit: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi/Files

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A saddened Pope Benedict marked a difficult Pentecost Sunday as the Vatican braced for a possible widening of the scandal that has seen his butler arrested on charges of stealing private documents in the "Vatileaks" affair.

The pope looked weary as he celebrated a mass in St Peter's Basilica to mark the day when the Church teaches that the Holy Spirit descended on Christ's apostles, or disciples.

Although the day is regarded as the birthday of the Church, earthly celebration was likely to be far from the minds of the 85-year-old pope and the cardinals who flanked him at the basilica's papal altar.

On Saturday his personal butler, Paolo Gabriele, 46, was formally charged with stealing confidential papal documents.

The pope made no reference during his two public appearances on Sunday to the scandal or the arrest, which aides said had "saddened and pained" him.

But Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the former archbishop of Milan and himself once a candidate for the papacy, seemed to speak for many when he said the scandal should prompt the Church "to urgently win back the trust of the faithful".

The atmosphere in the walled city-state was glum as Vatican sources said they could not rule out more arrests, particularly if Gabriele named any accomplices.

Gabriele is suspected of leaking highly sensitive documents, some of which allege cronyism and corruption in Vatican contracts with Italian companies.

The scandal, which has been brewing for months, has now hit the very heart of the Roman Catholic Church because Gabriele - now known in Vatican statements as "the defendant" - was until Wednesday night the quiet man who served the pope's meals, helped him dress and held his umbrella on rainy days.


Cardinal Martini, writing in an Italian newspaper, said the pope had been "betrayed" just as Jesus was betrayed 2,000 years ago, and that the Church would have to emerge from the latest scandal cleaner and stronger.

Still, few believed that Gabriele, a shy and private man, could have acted on his own and some said he may have been an unwitting pawn in a Vatican power struggle.

"Either he lost his mind or this is a trap," a friend of Gabriele's in the Vatican told the newspaper La Stampa.

"Whoever convinced him to do this is even more guilty because he manipulated a simple person."

While news of Gabriele's arrest has filled pages and pages of newspapers in Italy and beyond, the Vatican's own newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, has ignored the story.

Some say this may be because the paper itself has been an instrument in a power struggle involving reciprocal mud-slinging between allies and enemies of the Vatican's "prime minister", Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

"This is a strategy of tension, an orgy of vendettas and pre-emptive vendettas that has now spun out of the control of those who thought they could orchestrate it," Church historian Alberto Melloni wrote in the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

The scandal involves the leaking of a string of documents to Italian media in January and February, including personal letters to the pope.

They included letters by an archbishop who was transferred to Washington after blowing the whistle on what he saw as a web of corruption and cronyism; a memo that put a number of cardinals in a bad light; and documents alleging internal conflicts about the Vatican Bank.

On Thursday night the Italian president of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was ousted by the board of external financial directors.

He said he was paying for his efforts to make the bank more transparent, but board members said he had been an ineffective, incompetent and divisive manager.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Comments (5)
majcram wrote:
I is certainly painful and difficult to see our Church and her leadership suffer these embarrassing events. However, I can’t help but wonder at how the events are unfolding. Our prayers are always that God’s word will continue to move throughout the world in order for it to touch the hearts and minds of all and transform their lives. I have been praying that God would renew and cleanse His Church in order to restore trust and priestly authority. I can’t help feeling a sense of astonishment mixed with sorrow at what I am seeing.

I believe there is an opportunity within all of this mess for the leadership to emerge with a new body as it confesses it’s transgressions and rejects the binds that the Adversary has on it. I believe there is a spiritual struggle happening. The Church must restructure itself with the guidance of our Lord and the help of the Holy Spirit.

This is an opportunity to emerge as a new and renewed Church having confessed it’s transgressions and reconciled with the Master and the faithful moving forward in love and truth rewarding good deeds with praise and confronting evil with the power of love and truth. This is my prayer.

May 27, 2012 10:22am EDT  --  Report as abuse
paintcan wrote:
Is the Vatican itself making the arrests? It’s hard to tell from this article and one from AP.

I once argued with someone (over 30 years ago) that Church money is contributions and investments. If the congregations didn’t trust them they shouldn’t give anything. Compliance with particular country’s tax laws is something they do locally. Many corporations could be very nervous now.

I imagine this issue could be applied to every private organization including schools and universities. The big schools can be very Vaticanesque too.

I don’t believe for a minute we are entering a golden age of accountability. I think we are entering the age of “who’s calling the kettle black and the best defense is blaming those least capable or self defense.

I’m sure this issue is driven by so much hypocrisy and fraud by all sides it’s almost spectacularly corrupt in itself.

There really was a lot of truth to the second Godfather movie after all.

I think I’ve already heard Gabriel’s horn. It came last year in the form of a rumble that sounded like a truck barreling down the hill followed by a high pitched whine from deep in the earth. My cross-the-street neighbors heard it too. We all thought it was a deep earthquake but perhaps we were wrong?

If push comes to grab, I think Vatican treasures belong to Italy. That’s where most of them were discovered.

It’s really disgusting hearing professional vultures give lessons in morality to pack rats.

May 27, 2012 12:48pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
neahkahnie wrote:
Truth? Old men in the hierarchy of the Church? Please. Don’t be that much of a hypocrite. You jailed a person for TREASON who released the truth about the Bank of the Vatican and the corruption in the Vatican. And you want THE TRUTH. Please don’t insult us.

May 27, 2012 12:50pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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