Pope grants jailed butler pardon
Pope Benedict XVI has pardoned Paolo Gabriele, his former butler who was convicted in October of leaking sensitive documents that alleged corruption in the Holy See.
The Vatican said the pope visited Gabriele in the Vatican's jail this morning to tell him personally of the pardon. They spoke for some 15 minutes.
He was subsequently freed and returned to his Vatican City apartment where he lived with his wife and three children.
"What they said to each other will remain a secret between them ... he knows he made a mistake," Gabriele's lawyer Cristiana Arru, who was in the apartment when he returned home, told Reuters.
The Vatican said he would not continue living or working in the Vatican, but that it “intends to offer him the possibility to serenely restart his life together with his family”.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev Federico Lombardi, said the pope’s meeting with Gabriele was “intense” and “personal,” noting that Gabriele and the pope had worked together closely for six years.
Rev Lombardi called the pope's action "a paternal gesture towards a person with whom the pope shared his daily life for several years ... this is a happy ending in this Christmas season to this sad and painful episode."
Gabriele was convicted of aggravated theft on October 6th and had been serving an 18-month sentence in a Vatican jail cell.
He was arrested in May after Vatican police found many documents that had been stolen from the pope's office.
He gave them to the media in what became known as "Vatileaks" and mushroomed into a major embarrassment for Benedict's pontificate.
The butler, who served the pope his meals and helped him dress, photocopied sensitive documents under the nose of his immediate superiors in a small office adjacent to the papal living quarters in the Apostolic Palace.
He then hid more than 1,000 copies and original documents, including some the pope had marked "to be destroyed", among many thousands of other papers and old newspaper clippings in a huge armoire in the family apartment inside the Vatican walls.
A former member of the small, select group known as "the papal family", Gabriele was one of fewer than 10 people who had a key to an elevator leading directly to the pope's apartments.
He said at the trial that from his perch as papal butler he was able to see how easily a powerful man could be manipulated by aides and kept in the dark about things he should have known.
The Vatican said he pope had also pardoned a second Vatican employee, Claudio Sciarpelletti, who was convicted of aiding and abetting Gabriele.