x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Vatican whispers of corruption and spying after charges for Pope's butler

Pope's butler ordered to stand trial over 'Vatileaks' affair in which documents were pilfered from Pope Benedict XVI's apartment.

Papal butler Paolo Gabriele (front left) travelling with Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican. Mr Gabriele is expected to face charges of aggravated theft over his involvement in the so-called Vatileaks affair.
Papal butler Paolo Gabriele (front left) travelling with Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican. Mr Gabriele is expected to face charges of aggravated theft over his involvement in the so-called Vatileaks affair.

VATICAN CITY // A Vatican judge yesterday ordered the pope's butler and a fellow lay employee to stand trial for allegedly pilfering documents from Pope Benedict XVI's private apartment, a scandal that embarrassed the Vatican and exposed infighting and alleged corruption at the highest levels.

The indictment accused Paolo Gabriele, the butler arrested at the Vatican in May, of grand theft, a charge that carries one to six years in jail on conviction if the pope does not choose to pardon his once-trusted aide.

While the Vatican had insisted throughout the investigation that Mr Gabriele, a laymen who lives with his family in Vatican City, was the only person under investigation, the indictment also orders trial for Claudio Sciarpelletti. He is a layman and computer expert in the state secretariat office and is charged with aiding and abetting Mr Gabriele.

The Vatican has promised a public trial. The Rev Federico Lombardi, a spokesman, said that both defendants would be tried together before a three-judge panel late next mont at the earliest, since the Vatican tribunal is on summer recess.

Mr Lombardi said the magistrates would not take on the bigger task of grappling with the wider, more serious issue revealed by the leaked documents: alleged corruption within the top ranks of the church.

In the 20-page indictment, Judge Piero Antonio Bonnet ruled that there was no evidence to indict Mr Sciarpelletti on a charge of revealing secrets and insufficient evidence for a charge of grand theft.

There had been widespread speculation about the possibility of a mole in the secretariat's office as some of the leaked documents seemed aimed at casting doubt on Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone's ability to be the Vatican's No 2, in the position of secretary of state.

One of the psychological experts who examined Mr Gabriele during the probe concluded that the pope's butler was unsuited for that job, which went from dawn to dusk and included serving the pope meals, helping him get dressed, attending morning Mass with him and other assignments.

Vatican investigators found a "mountain of documents" in Mr Gabriele's Vatican apartment that had been taken from the pope's apartment, Mr Lombardi said.

In his request for an indictment, the prosecutor Nicola Picardi quoted the butler as saying in one of his interrogations, that "seeing evil and corruption everywhere in the Church ... I was sure that a shock, even a media one, would have been healthy to bring the Church back on the right track".

Mr Lombardi said a criminal sentence would depend "on any possible pardon" from the pope, but added that it was "premature to speak of this now".