Pope’s Butler Admits Document Leaks, Says Innocent of Theft

Pope’s Butler Admits Document Leaks, Says Innocent of Theft
Pope Benedict XVI stands in his Popemobile with his butler Paolo Gabriele upon his arrival for a weekly general audience on April 25, 2012 at St Peter's square at The Vatican. Photographer: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI’s former butler admitted leaking confidential papal documents to an Italian journalist, saying he was venting his frustrations about Vatican officials who manipulated the Holy Father.

Paolo Gabriele, 46, told a Vatican court today that he was innocent of the charges of aggravated theft, while saying that he had betrayed the Pope’s trust. Gabriele also said that he acted alone.

“I developed the conviction that it’s very easy to manipulate a person who has decision making powers in his hands,” Gabriele told the three-judge panel. “Sometimes the Pope asked questions about things he should have already known about.”

Gabriele allegedly leaked the documents to Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, who used some of them in his book “His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI.” The Italian best-seller detailed power struggles and alleged corruption inside the Vatican. Gabriele, who began collecting documents more than five years ago, said frustration pushed him to confide in a journalist.

“My intention was to find a trusted person to vent to, given my feelings and the discomfort about the situation that had become unbearable all around in the Vatican,” Gabriele said. He never accepted money or benefits in exchange for information, Gabriele said.

Gold Nugget

Vatican authorities searched Gabriele’s house and found documents as well as a check made out to the pope for 100,000 euros ($129,000), a 16th-century book and a gold nugget, according to court documents published on the Vatican’s website in August. If Gabriele is convicted, he would face a jail sentence from one to six years, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Aug. 13.

Gabriele was arrested in May after the leaks narrowed the number of potential informers. Benedict’s secretary Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, who testified today after Gabriele, said he became suspicious of the butler after the publication of three documents, including an e-mail from Italian talk-show host Bruno Vespa.

Gabriele had a desk in Gaenswein’s office, which is adjacent to the pope’s. Gaenswein, who said that he previously trusted Gabriele “absolutely,” called a meeting of the pope’s staff in May to inform the butler that he had been suspended amid the investigation.

Papal Family

“I thought it was better to do it in front of the whole papal family, given that it was a decision made above me,” Gaenswein said.

Gabriele testified that in his first cell, where he was held for about 20 days, the lights were turned on around the clock and the space was so narrow that he was unable to lift his arms.

Vatican judicial officials have started a probe to determine whether abuses were committed, Lombardi said.

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