Vatican leak investigation widens
A special commission of cardinals investigating the worst crisis in Pope Benedict's pontificate is hunting possible accomplices to his butler, held since his arrest in a 'safe room' in the Vatican police station.
The scandal exploded last week when within a few days the head of the Vatican's own bank was abruptly dismissed, the butler was arrested and a book was published alleging conspiracies among cardinals, the "princes of the Church".
"I can confirm that a number of people have been heard or interrogated and naturally this is something that can continue because we are still in the investigative phase," spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said today.
Fr Lombardi denied that any cardinals were suspects in a scandal over leaked documents that has rocked the very top of the Roman Catholic Church since the arrest last week of butler Paolo Gabriele (46).
Vatican investigators are still sifting through documents found in Mr Gabriele's home, which Fr Lombardi told a briefing likely included printed and electronic material.
He would not say how many documents were found because the information was covered by judicial secrecy.
But Mr Gabriele's lawyer yesterday denied Italian reports that huge amounts of confidential material were found hidden in the butler's home.
Mr Gabriele was formally charged with aggravated theft on Saturday when a preliminary inquiry that began with his arrest was upgraded to a formal investigation.
The butler, who was one of the people closest to the pope, will face Vatican magistrates again later this week or next when formal hearings start.
"This touched the pope very closely and created a situation of pain. Naturally he wants to know the truth and (determine) the correct interpretation of these events," Fr Lombardi said.
The Vatican says the powerful cardinals commission "can decide to hear anyone they think might have information in this case".
While denying reports that the butler was merely a pawn in a larger power struggle among clerics in the Holy See, the Vatican has acknowledged that the affair would test the faith of Catholics in their Church.
"Clearly this is a grave situation," Fr Lombardi said, adding that the Vatican was not afraid of "problems, difficulties, or even errors or blame".
Documents leaked to journalists over several months allege corruption in the Church's vast financial dealings with Italian business.
Italian newspapers, quoting other whistle blowers in the Vatican, said the arrested butler was merely a scapegoat doing the bidding of more powerful figures, punished because the Church did not dare implicate cardinals behind the leaks.