Vatican butler found guilty
Paolo Gabriele, the Pope’s butler today found guilty of the theft of confidential documents from Benedict XVI’s pontifical apartment, will almost certainly be granted a papal pardon.
Speaking just minutes after a Vatican City court had given Gabriele a suspended 18-month prison sentence this morning, senior Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that there was a “concrete, very realistic” possibility that Benedict will grant him a pardon.
In essence, Benedict may well decide that although Gabriele’s actions were wrong, he had acted out of genuine concern about Holy See affairs. The pontiff, too, finds himself in an unusual position in this case, in that he is both the victim of the theft and the Supreme Arbiter, as head of the Church and the Vatican state.
In theory, Gabriele could have been given a much tougher sentence of up to four years.
Issuing his verdict, however, presiding Judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre, said that the court had taken into account a series of mitigating circumstances including the defendant’s lack of a criminal record and his “subjective, if erroneous conviction” that he had acted in the best interests of the Church.
Asked by presiding judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre yesterday if he considered himself guilty, Gabriele replied that he had acted “out of love, visceral love I would say, for the Church of Christ and its manifest leader”.
Thus, after just one week and four hearings, this unprecedented trial concludes with a verdict that had been widely expected. 46-year-old Gabriele had already confessed his guilt to Vatican City prosecutors, saying that he had passed confidential documents to Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of the best-seller from last May, “His Holiness, The Secret Papers Of Benedict XVI”.
This trial, therefore, basically concentrated its attention on finding evidence that would corroborate Gabriele’s confession of theft.
The court showed little interest in understanding his motivation or the role, if any, played in the affair by senior Holy See figures such as Cardinals Paolo Sardi and Angelo Comastri. In court, Gabriele had referred to Cardinal Sardi as a sort of “spiritual father”.
The “His Holiness” book, however, based on authentic documents, had cast a rare spotlight on the inner workings of a Holy See rife with internecine rivalry, occasional corruption and much politicising.
Even though Gabriele has always claimed that he acted alone, many observers remain convinced that his leaks were prompted by senior Holy See figures keen to highlight tensions and problems in the running of the Holy See, particularly with regard to the dominant role exercised by the Vatican Secretary of State or Prime Minister, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
In his summing up today, though, the chief Vatican prosecutor, Nicola Piccardi, said that the court had uncovered no evidence to disprove Gabriele’s claim that he had worked alone. Not for nothing, Vatican spokesman Father Lombardi was today keen to underline this point.
For the time being, Gabriele remains under house arrest in Vatican City until such time as the Pope issues his pardon.