Judgment looms for butler who leaked papal papers

VATICAN CITY Fri Oct 5, 2012 6:29pm EDT

Pope Benedict's former butler Paolo Gabriele (R), accused of stealing and leaking the pontiff's personal papers, sits at the start of his trial at the Vatican September 29, 2012. GREUTERS/Osservatore Romano

Pope Benedict's former butler Paolo Gabriele (R), accused of stealing and leaking the pontiff's personal papers, sits at the start of his trial at the Vatican September 29, 2012. G

Credit: Reuters/Osservatore Romano

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A trial that has thrown open the window on a betrayal of trust and sensitive secrets in the Vatican will come to a head on Saturday with final arguments before judges deliver their verdict on Pope Benedict's former butler.

The so-called "Vatileaks" trial, which began last Saturday, is due to wind up after only four hearings when the prosecution and defense make closing arguments on Saturday morning.

Paolo Gabriele, 46, who has been tried under a 19th-century Italian penal code, will be given the chance to have the last say before the three-judge panel retires to deliberate behind closed doors.

A former member of the small, select group known as "the papal family", and one of fewer than 10 people who had a key to an elevator leading directly to the pope's apartments, Gabriele faces up to four years in prison if he is convicted, as is expected. He would serve out the sentence in an Italian jail because the Vatican has no such facility.

In the course of the trial, intimate details emerged of the inner workings of an institution long renowned for its secrecy.

Gabriele, who is charged with aggravated theft, has admitted being the source of leaks of highly sensitive papers, including letters to the pope that alleged corruption in the Vatican's business dealings.

The documents constituted one of the biggest crises of Pope Benedict's papacy when they emerged in a muckraking expose by an Italian journalist earlier this year.

The case has been an embarrassment for the Vatican, coming at a time when it was keen to rid itself from the taint left by a series of scandals involving sexual abuse of minors by clerics around the world and mismanagement at its bank.

PAPAL PARDON?

Gabriele, a trusted servant who served the pope meals, helped him dress and rode in the popemobile, has told the court he does not consider himself guilty of a crime.

He told investigators before the trial began that he leaked the documents because he saw "evil and corruption everywhere in the Church" and that information was being hidden from the pope.

Earlier this week Gabriele accused the Holy See's police of mistreating him while in custody. Members of the force in turn depicted the butler as a man obsessed with the occult, Masonic lodges and secret services.

He has asked for Benedict's forgiveness and expressed feelings of guilt and remorse for betraying the man he said he "loved as a son would".

If Gabriele is ordered to serve time in jail, the pope could pardon him, which would absolve him from having to serve a sentence.

The pontiff has the power to do this because besides being the head of the 1.2 billion-member Roman Catholic Church, he is the absolute monarch of the Vatican City state, where the alleged crime took place.

"Paolo Gabriele may well be pardoned but it will certainly send a message in the Vatican about how people behave," Greg Burke, a senior communications adviser for the Vatican, said.

"In the past there's often been the idea that anybody could get away with anything. That's clearly not the case."

The Vatican has been eager for the trial to finish quickly, holding hearings on Saturdays to avoid it overshadowing a Synod of Bishops, an important Church convention that takes place every few years which is due to start on Sunday.

Ending after only four sessions - something unheard of in the Italian legal system - has raised the question whether the man who hoped a shock would "bring the Church back on the right track," will have altered the institution he set out to change.

"It has surely changed something but in my opinion, not too much," said Rome resident Nicoletta Fresa. "It will never be possible to penetrate this closed realm of the Vatican and their secrets."

(Additional reporting by Hanna Rantala and Antonio Denti; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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Comments (1)
Reuters1945 wrote:
It is not surprising that every effort is being made to attack and tarnish the credibility of the present Pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, a human being of truly rare courage.
It is a story as old as the world itself. When people do not like the message, the reaction is always the same which is to try to kill the messenger.
The Pope’s butler may well have been trying to keep alive the ambitious goals of Pope John Paul I, the Pope who suddenly died under mysterious circumstances just 33 days after he became Pope.
Read the book “In God’s Name: An Investigation Into the Murder of Pope John Paul I”, by the highly respected investigative Journalist, David Yallop who attempted to pull back the curtain on the economic activity and Banking practices inside the Vatican.
The untimely and shocking death of Pope John Paul I, after he made it known he wanted to look into the Vatican’s finances, was thoroughly researched by David Yallop of whose book one Reviewer wrote the following remarks. They are as timely today as ever as they relate to the present Trial of the Pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, whose story seems like “déjà vu all over again” as encountered in the book review of “In God’s Name”.

“This is a difficult book to digest for faithful Roman Catholics like myself. It is the story of a wonderful priest who loved the poor and wanted the church to improve the quality of life for Catholics. Pope John Paul the First was a man who would not seek to impose christian solutions on non-Christians; he was someone who was sensitive to social problems and open to dialogue; with a commitment to the search for unity; a good pastor, a good shepherd in the way that Jesus was; a man who sincerely believed that the church should not be out of date but be a relevant, nurturing factor in the lives of Catholics worldwide.
The press called him the “Smiling Pope.” However, in reality Albino Luciani who wished to be called Pope John Paul the First and became the first double name in the history of the papacy was a man of enormous faith. What a shame his 33 days as pope in 1978 was the shortest stint since Pope Medici Leo XI in 1605 who only served 17 days. In all likelihood, he had the inner strength and intelligence to be the greatest pope in the history of the Vatican.
To this end, “In God’s Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I,” by highly regarded journalist David A.Yallop is a work of monumental research and importance. The author dares to point a finger at the financial corruption within the Vatican. He names names…Michele Sindona, Roberto Calvi, Lucio Gelli, Cardinal John Patrick Cody of Chicago and Bishop Paul Casimir Marcinkus in Vatican City all conducted illegal activities. And Albino Luciani was determined to put an end to it.
This well-written book is difficult to put down. Quite naturally it is officially condemned by the oligarchy in the Vatican. However, I think it is important for all interested in the pursuit of truth to read this compelling book and drawn one’s own conclusion. The evidence is hard to ignore. The conclusion is based on facts. It is truly hard to imagine but I am know convinced that Pope John Paul the First was murdered because he dared to promote positive change and rid the Vatican of corrupt banking practices”.

Once again, it is not surprising that every effort is being made to attack and tarnish the credibility of the present Pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele.
It is a story as old as the world itself. When people do not like the message, the reaction is always the same which is to try to kill the messenger.

Oct 05, 2012 10:58pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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