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Pope’s Former Butler Convicted of Theft in Vatican Leaks Trial

Pope Benedict XVI’s former butler was convicted of theft by a Vatican court after he admitted to leaking confidential papal documents to an Italian journalist.

Paolo Gabriele, 46, was sentenced to 18 months in prison after the court reduced a three-year term citing extenuating circumstances.

Gabriele’s trial and the leaks that prompted his arrest shed light on power struggles within the Holy See. Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, who used documents provided by Gabriele in a bestseller published this year, detailed how loyalists to Pope Benedict were trying to check the growing influence of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s de facto prime minister. Gabriele, in his testimony Oct. 2, said he acted out of love for the Pope and that Benedict was easily manipulated.

The three-judge panel ruled after hearing testimony this week from Gabriele, Benedict’s secretary Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, and the security personnel who carried out the search of the butler’s home. Gaenswein spoke about his suspicions of Gabriele, and the gendarmes detailed the discovery of classified documents. Gabriele said he was innocent of the charges, while admitting to betraying Benedict’s confidence.

“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 told the court on Oct. 3. He never accepted money or benefits in exchange for information, Gabriele said.

Possible Appeal

Gabriele told the court today in his concluding statements he doesn’t feel like a thief, Ansa reported. His lawyer Cristiana Arru said the sentence was good and balanced, according to Ansa. Arru will read the panel’s written decision before deciding whether to appeal, the newswire reported.

A papal pardon is likely, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters, Ansa said.

The search of Gabriele’s house uncovered documents as well as a check made out to the pope for 100,000 euros ($130,000), a 16th-century book and a gold nugget, according to court documents published on the Vatican’s website in August.

Nuzzi’s book, “The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI,” came out in May as the leaks narrowed the number of potential informers. Gaenswein said it was the publication of three documents, including an e-mail from Italian talk-show host Bruno Vespa that made him suspect Gabriele because they had never left the pope’s office. The butler, a layman who lives in Vatican city with his wife and three children, was arrested in May.

Vatican judicial officials have opened an investigation to determine whether Gabriele was abused in confinement. The butler testified that in his first cell, where he was held for about 20 days, the lights were kept on around the clock and the space was so narrow that he was unable to lift his arms.

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