* Cardinals look for accomplices of butler, held in "safe
* Vatican's number three says book of leaks is "criminal"
* Special commission has power to question anyone in Vatican
(Recasts with Vatican deputy secretary of state)
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY, May 29 The Vatican on Tuesday
denounced the theft of secret papal documents as a "brutal"
personal attack on Pope Benedict as a powerful group of
cardinals hunted more culprits behind the biggest crisis of his
With the crisis over leaks of sensitive documents deepening,
the third most senior figure in the Vatican fired a bitter salvo
in the Vatican's official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.
Vatican deputy secretary of state, Archbishop Angelo Becciu
said in an interview that the publication of stolen documents in
a recent book by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi was a
It was the first time the paper has reported on the arrest
of Benedict's butler nearly a week ago and it reflected the
anger in the Holy See over what is seen as a betrayal of
The newspaper also said the butler, Paolo Gabriele, 46, had
been in possession of "a large number" of the pope's private
documents, the first time the Holy See has come close to
publicly quantifying how many documents Gabriele held.
"The act he (the pope) has been subjected to is brutal,"
Becciu said. "Benedict XVI has seen the publication of papers
stolen from his house."
The scandal exploded last week when within a few days, the
head of the Vatican's own bank was abruptly dismissed, the
butler was arrested and Nuzzi's book was published alleging
conspiracies among cardinals, the "princes of the Church".
Gabriele was formally charged with aggravated theft on
Saturday when a preliminary inquiry that began with his arrest
was upgraded to a formal investigation.
The butler, who was one of the people closest to the pope
and is still being held in a "safe room" in the Vatican's police
station, will face Vatican magistrates again later this week or
next when formal hearings start.
The Vatican says a powerful cardinals commission
investigating the scandal, "can decide to hear anyone they think
might have information in this case".
"I can confirm that a number of people have been heard or
interrogated and naturally this is something that can continue
because we are still in the investigative phase," spokesman
Father Federico Lombardi told a briefing earlier.
Lombardi denied that any cardinals were suspects in a
scandal that has rocked the very top of the Roman Catholic
Church since Gabriele's arrest.
Vatican investigators are still sifting through documents
found in Gabriele's home, which Lombardi told a briefing likely
included printed and electronic material.
"This touched the pope very closely and created a situation
of pain. Naturally he wants to know the truth and (determine)
the correct interpretation of these events," Lombardi said.
AFFAIR HAS TESTED THE FAITHFUL
While denying reports that the butler was merely a pawn in a
larger power struggle among clerics in the Holy See, the Vatican
has acknowledged that the affair would test the faith of
Catholics in their Church.
Documents leaked to journalists over several months allege
corruption in the Church's vast financial dealings with Italian
business including infrastructure contracts awarded at inflated
In one example, the Vatican was said to have paid 550,000
euros for a traditional nativity scene in St Peter's Square,
thought to be at least double its real value.
Italian newspapers, quoting other whistle blowers in the
Vatican, said the arrested butler was merely a scapegoat doing
the bidding of more powerful figures, punished because the
Church did not dare implicate cardinals behind the leaks.
Becciu said some of what he called "a media flood" about the
leaks was part of the media's "underlying hypocrisy" and
"fantasy with no relation to reality".
The leaks scandal has touched the Secretariat of State led
by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the pope's powerful right-hand
man, with Italian media saying the affair appears to involve a
struggle between his allies and enemies, reminiscent of
Renaissance conspiracies inside the Vatican.
Gabriele's lawyers say their client would cooperate fully
with investigators, raising the possibility that he could name
Critics of the pope say a lack of strong leadership has
opened the door to infighting among his powerful aides - and
potentially to the corruption alleged in the leaked documents.
Many Vatican insiders believe the butler, who had access to
the pope's private apartment, could not have acted alone.
Now known in Vatican statements as "the defendant" - he was
until Wednesday night the quiet man who served the pope's meals,
helped him dress and held his umbrella on rainy days.
The Vatican's announcement of the arrest of the butler came a
day after the president of the Vatican bank, Italian Ettore
Gotti Tedeschi, left the bank after a no confidence vote by its
board of external financial experts, who come from Germany,
Spain, the United States and Italy.
Gotti Tedeschi's abrupt departure was also seen as a blow to
Bertone, who as secretary of state was instrumental in bringing
him in from Spain's Banco Santander to run the Vatican bank in
The Vatican bank, officially known as the Institute for the
Works of Religion (IOR), was set up during World War Two to
manage the accounts of Vatican agencies, church organisations,
bishops and religious orders.
It has been involved in financial scandals, most notably in
1982 when it was embroiled in the collapse of what was then
Italy's largest private bank, Banco Ambrosiano, with more than a
billion dollars in debts.
Banco Ambrosiano's chairman Roberto Calvi was found hanged
under London's Blackfriar's Bridge.
In September 2010, Italian investigators froze millions of
euros in funds in Italian banks after opening a probe into
alleged money laundering involving IOR accounts. The bank denies
any illegal activity.
The Vatican is trying to make the IOR more transparent and
join an international "white list" of countries that comply with
international safeguards against money laundering and fraud. A
decision on that application is expected within months.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by Barry Moody)