Papal butler’s journey from trusted servant to accused Judas
Just after dawn on Wednesday, May 23, Paolo Gabriele said goodbye to his wife, passed by the bedrooms of his three children and left to start another day in the service of the man Roman Catholics believe is the vicar of Christ on Earth.
By the end of the day, Pope Benedict’s butler would be branded a traitor and some, including an Italian cardinal, would compare him to the most famous betrayer in history — Judas Iscariot, the man who turned Jesus over to the Romans.
Dark haired and handsome, Gabriele, 46, left his simple home on the third floor of a 1930s Vatican apartment block named after the 7th century monk Saint Egidio.
With the St Ann’s Gate entrance, guarded by Swiss Guard in blue berets, to his back, he passed the Holy See’s central post office on Via Del Belvedere, turned left to climb a stone stairway named after Pope Pius X, and walked up a flight of covered steps to enter the small Renaissance-era Courtyard of Sixtus V.
Here he used a key held by fewer than 10 people to enter an elevator that leads directly to the pope’s private apartment on the third and top floor of the Apostolic Palace in the world’s smallest state. Even cardinals can’t use it.
Gabriele, said by those who know him to be a timid, reserved and shy man, is now at the centre of the worst crisis in Pope Benedict’s pontificate.
His face has appeared on the front pages of newspapers all over the world, accused of being the source of leaked documents alleging serious Vatican corruption and cronyism in a scandal that has shaken the very centre of the Church.
To some — even if he is found guilty — he is an idealist who wanted to root out corruption in the Vatican and was helped by outside accomplices. To others, he is merely a pawn in a much bigger power struggle among cardinals inside the Vatican walls.
“I know Paolo and I don’t think he is capable of doing something like this by himself,” a person who spoke on the condition of anonymity said. “It is clearly a betrayal of the pope’s trust but I don’t think he could have acted alone.” [More]