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Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 22 March, 2018

Vatileaks: Pope's butler to stand trial tomorrow - but may be pardoned

Vatican watchers believe that Pope Benedict could pardon Paolo Gabriele for leaking sensitive papers to a journalist.

Paolo Gabiele is accused of leaking confidential Vatican memos to an investigative journalist, in what has become known as the 'Vatileaks' scandal.
Paolo Gabiele is accused of leaking confidential Vatican memos to an investigative journalist, in what has become known as the 'Vatileaks' scandal.
Image: Andrew Medichini/AP

THE TRIAL of Pope Benedict’s former butler, who is accused of stealing the pontiff’s personal documents and leaking them to journalists, is to begin tomorrow – but could end quite quickly, reporters believe.

Paolo Gabriele, 43, stands accused of aggravated theft in what has become known as the ‘Vatileaks’ scandal – and, if convicted, could face four years in jail.

The case is a rarity – not least because criminal trials are exceptionally rare in the Vatican, the world’s smallest sovereign state, which doesn’t even have its own jail. If convicted, Gabriele would serve his sentence in an Italian facility.

However, even if Gabriele is convicted, he may not face any jail term whatsoever – as the Washington Post reports the assumptions of many Vatican watchers to be that the pontiff (who is officially the Vatican’s absolute monarch, and therefore the head of its judiciary) may simply pardon him.

Gabriele will stand trial together with Claudio Sciarpelletti, who according to court papers played a secondary messenger role in the scandal. Sciarpelletti is also likely to be pardoned.

The sensitive papers were leaked to investigative journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, who published them in a book “His Holiness” earlier this year.

A psychologist’s report on Gabriele released earlier this month showed he had a normal but “fragile” state of mind but highlighted a “tragic contradiction” between his intentions to help the pontiff and his later acts.

Gabriele’s lawyer Carlo Fusco resigned last month, telling AFP that he had fallen out with his friend and client “over defence strategy”. ”We took the decision together to part ways,” the lawyer said.

So far around 30 religious and lay people have been questioned in connection with the case by a special commission of cardinals set up for the job. The results of their inquiry have not been made public but experts say there will likely be more revelations of high-level involvement in the leaks.

Additional reporting by AFP

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