Former papal butler gives evidence


A Vatican judge has ordered an investigation of the Holy See's police force after Pope Benedict's former butler said he was held in a tiny room with the light on constantly for the first few weeks of his detention.

The judge ordered the investigation after Paolo Gabriele and his lawyer made the assertions on the second day of the trial where he is accused of aggravated theft.

Mr Gabriele, who is on trial for stealing papal documents alleging corruption in the Vatican and leaking them to the media, said he did not have any direct accomplices but was influenced by others and by widespread malaise in the Vatican.

He testified today that he was innocent of the charges.

Police arrested him after they found a stash of papal papers in his Vatican City home. In all, police carted off 82 boxes of papers, though not all of them were papal correspondence.

Mr Gabriele admitted passing documents to the reporter, saying that he acted to vent frustration over how the Pope "was easily manipulated" by senior Vatican officials.

He told the courtroom that his "intention was to find a trusted person" to air his feelings. Vatican authorities searched Gabriele's house and found documents as well as a check made out to the pope for €100,000, a 16th century book and a gold nugget, according to court documents published on the Vatican's website in August.

He today said he was innocent of stealing private correspondence but guilty of betraying the trust of the pontiff, whom he said he loved like a son would his father.

Mr Gabriele entered the witness box in a Vatican courtroom to defend himself against a charge of aggravated theft.

In other evidence, the pope’s private secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, said that he began having suspicions about Mr Gabriele after he realised three documents that appeared in the journalist’s book could only have come from the office he shared with him.

The trial opened over the weekend inside the intimate ground-floor tribunal in the Vatican’s courthouse tucked behind St Peter’s Basilica.

Judge Giuseppe Della Torre has said he expects it to be over in about four more hearings. Mr Gabriele faces four years in prison if convicted on a charge of aggravated theft.

The 46-year-old father of three seemed calm but tense in that first hearing, staring ahead impassively as his lawyer raised a handful of objections and requests.

As an absolute monarch, the pope has full judicial authority in the Vatican city state and can intervene to stop a trial. He delegates that power to the three-judge tribunal, but he can pardon Mr Gabriele and most expect he will if there is a conviction.