VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican on Thursday moved Pope Benedict’s former butler, who admitted leaking sensitive documents, from house arrest to a cell in the city-state’s police station and indicated he would not be getting a papal pardon anytime soon.
In a detailed statement that attacked Paolo Gabriele for violating papal trust, the Vatican insisted he acted alone in what it called a personal “criminal plan” that resulted in the biggest breach of Vatican security in recent history.
Gabriele, who was sentenced to 18 months by a court on October 6 for stealing and leaking the documents, was moved to the cell to serve the remainder of his term after the prosecution decided not to appeal, making the ruling definitive. The prosecution had asked for three years.
“(This) puts an end to a sad situation that has had many painful consequences,” the Vatican statement said.
Gabriele was arrested in May for stealing documents from the pope’s office and leaking them to the Italian media in what became known as the “Vatileaks” scandal.
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 accused him of violating the privacy of other people by leaking their private correspondence with the pope, sullying the Holy See’s reputation, damaging the working environment in the Vatican, and “causing 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 from the apartment where he lived with his family to the same cell he was held for some of his pre-trial detention, although not the tiny “holding room” where he was held immediately after his arrest and which he denounced as not large enough to spread his arms.
Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Michael Roddy