Trial of pope's butler for theft may end Saturday

Thu, Oct 4, 2012, 01:00

AT THE the third day of the trial of the pope’s butler Paolo Gabriele in the Vatican, it has emerged from papal spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi that the next hearing on Saturday could be the last.

Following yesterday’s relatively short hearing, all those witnesses summoned by the Vatican City court have now testified. Saturday’s hearing will see a final summing up by both prosecution and defence as well as a concluding statement from Mr Gabriele himself before the three court judges retire to deliberate their verdict.

Fr Lombardi indicated yesterday it was likely that the verdict would be issued on Saturday. Mr Gabriele is charged with the “aggravated” theft of documents from Pope Benedict XVI’s pontifical apartment in the Vatican.

Following Tuesday’s dramatic evidence from both Mr Gabriele and the pope’s personal secretary, Msgr Georg Ganswein, yesterday was a relatively quiet day when the court heard from four members of the Vatican gendarmerie.

They confirmed that among the thousands of documents found during a search of Mr Gabriele’s Vatican City home last May were originals and photocopies of more than 1,000 highly-confidential Holy See documents, all taken from the pontifical apartment.

Italian media yesterday was still considering the impact of the evidence given by Mr Gabriele on Tuesday. Not only did he speak of an ill-informed and malleable pope, he also indicated that he had been in close contact with four figures – Cardinals Paolo Sardi and Angelo Comastri, the Bishop of Carpi Francesco Cavina and Ingrid Stampa, the pope’s long-time assistant.

In his evidence, Mr Gabriele stressed that his involvement with these four people had nothing to do with the papal apartment theft, for which he accepts full responsibility. Yet, many still wonder if he was acting on behalf of others in the context of an overall malaise within the curia about the secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

In the book His Holiness, Cardinal Bertone is seen to wield a lot of power, dismissing people like Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano and Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi from key Vatican positions, apparently without the pope’s knowledge.

Mr Gabriele claimed this week that the dismissal of Archbishop Vigano, who as Vatican City secretary general had instigated a contracts and accountancy clean-up, had set him on the path that ended with his theft from the papal apartment. The publication of the stolen documents had been intended as a “media shock” or wake-up call for the Catholic Church.

Most observers believe that Mr Gabriele will be found guilty when this trial concludes but that he will receive a papal pardon from Benedict XVI.