Pope Benedict’s butler to stand trial on theft charges
A Vatican judge on Monday ordered the butler who personally served Pope Benedict XVI to stand trial for allegedly pilfering hundreds of confidential documents from the papal apartments and passing them to an Italian journalist.
Paolo Gabriele, 45, will be tried by a Vatican tribunal this fall on charges of aggravated theft. A second defendant, Claudio Sciarpelletti, 49, a computer technician in the offices of the Holy See, is charged with aiding and abetting the butler.
Gabriele, the indictment alleges, said he stole the pope’s papers because he felt the need to root out “evil and corruption in the church.”
The mere fact that letters, memos and other papers made it past the massive walls of the secretive institution was astounding. But the contents of the papers — alleging widespread corruption and power struggles — gave rise to speculation that Benedict was losing his grip on the governance of the 1.2-billion-member Roman Catholic Church.
Gabriele was arrested May 23, shortly after the publication of a best-selling book that reproduced many internal letters and papers that not only seemed to indicate backbiting between high-level factions within the church but also alleged that those who sought to eradicate cronyism and price-fixing in purchases for the Vatican were silenced.
Gabriele was held in a cell in the Vatican police barracks before being transferred to house arrest in July. A layman, he lives with his wife and children inside Vatican City.
Gabriele’s attorneys have said that he cooperated with authorities and that he acted alone, despite a barrage of news reports saying that a number of insiders eager to shed light on unsavory goings-on within Vatican walls had become whistle-blowers and were possibly linked in a plot.
A steady stream of documents published in Italian newspapers and on television specials preceded the May publication of “His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI,” a book by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi.
Many of the leaked documents cast a negative light on Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who as secretary of state is the second in command at the Vatican. He is criticized sometimes as an inept manager and as being too controlling, and many analysts saw the leaks as an effort by his opponents to oust him. But Benedict publicly praised him and he still holds his post. [More]