VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Paolo Gabriele, Pope Benedict’s former butler who was convicted this month of stealing papal documents and leaking them to the media, is being moved from house arrest to a jail cell, the Vatican said on Thursday.
The Vatican has no jail as such but has cells in the police station inside the tiny city state.
The decision to end house arrest for Gabriele, who has been living with his family in their apartment in the Vatican, was taken after both the defence and the prosecution decided not to appeal the sentence.
In a detailed statement, the Vatican insisted that Gabriele acted alone in a “criminal plan” and indicated that a papal pardon would not come soon. A court inflicted an 18-month sentence on the former butler on October 6.
“(This) puts an end to a sad situation that has had many painful consequences,” the statement said.
Gabriele was arrested in May for stealing sensitive documents from the pope’s office and leaking them in the worst security breach in the recent history of the papal state.
Some of the documents alleged corruption in the Vatican’s business dealings with Italian companies, laid bare rivalries and bickering at the highest levels of the Catholic Church, and disclosed internal conflict on the running of the Vatican bank.
The statement attacked Gabriele, who said during the trial he was influenced by a general malaise in the Vatican and had confided in some people within the Holy See’s walls, saying he had “dealt a personal offence” to the pope.
It said he had violated the privacy of other people by leaking their private correspondence with the pope, damaged the reputation of the Holy See and its institutions, and caused “scandal among the community of the faithful” of the 1.2 billion-member Church.
The tough wording of the statement indicated that a papal pardon for Gabriele, which would free him from jail, may not come as soon as previously believed.
It said Gabriele would still be able to appeal to the pope for a pardon but first he would have to recognise the gravity of his crime and “make a sincere request for forgiveness from the Supreme Pontiff and those who were unjustly offended”.
During the trial Gabriele said he stole, copied and leaked the documents out of “a visceral love” for the Church and because he felt aides were keeping information from the pope.
He told investigators he saw himself as “an agent of the Holy Spirit”.
The Vatican statement firmly contested this, saying his actions were “based on personal convictions that no-one can share in any way”.
Many observers are convinced that Gabriele, who served the pope his meals and helped him dress, could not have done it all by himself and may have been a pawn for others.
The Vatican used the statement to strongly restate its position that he acted alone, although it failed to mention that a second Vatican employee goes on trial next month on a lesser charge of aiding and abetting.
“The trial verified the facts, confirming that Mr Paolo Gabriele put his criminal plan in motion without being instigated or incited by anyone,” it said.
“Various conjectures about the existence of plots or the involvement of other people were shown to be unfounded.”
Gabriele was moved to jail a day after the pope said he was promoting six prelates to the high rank of cardinal, including Archbishop James Michael Harvey, who was the head of the Vatican department that employed Gabriele.
Harvey, an American, is leaving the Vatican to head a Rome basilica but the Vatican said there was no connection between his move and the leaks scandal.
Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Stephen Powell