Pope's butler held in 'Vatileaks' scandal

Sat, May 26, 2012, 01:00

Vatican magistrates formally charged Pope Benedict's butler with illegal possession of secret documents today and said a wider investigation would take place to see if he had any accomplices who helped him leak them.

Paolo Gabriele is suspected of leaking highly sensitive documents, some alleging cronyism and corruption in Vatican contracts, in a scandal which has come to be known as "Vatileaks".

A statement referred to Mr Gabriele (46) who was until his arrest on Wednesday night serving the pope meals and helping him dress, as "the defendant".

It said a preliminary investigation had been upgraded to a "formal investigation," meaning he had been formally charged, and had chosen two lawyers to defend him.Because the Vatican has no jail, Mr Gabriele was being held in one of the three so-called "secure rooms" in the offices of the Vatican's tiny police force inside the walled city-state.

The Vatican promised that he would have "all the juridical guarantees foreseen by the criminal code of the state of Vatican City.

"The Vatican said the upgraded, formal investigation "would continue "until a sufficient framework of the situation is acquired," which a Vatican official said meant magistrates wanted to determine if Mr Gabriele acted alone or with others.

The pope was said to be "pained" that someone in his domestic household had betrayed him. Mr Gabriele lived in the Vatican with his wife and three children.

Commentators in Italian newspapers said they doubted that Mr Gabriele could have acted alone and some speculated that he may have been a pawn in a larger, internal power struggle.

"Never has the sense of disorientation in the Catholic Church reached these levels," Church historian Alberto Melloni wrote in Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.

"But now there is something even more - a sense of systemic disorder."