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Papal valet sentenced to 18 months in ‘Vatileaks’ scandal; pardon possible

Catholic World News - October 08, 2012

The Tribunal of the Vatican City State has sentenced Paolo Gabriele, Pope Benedict’s former valet, to 18 months in prison for stealing and leaking confidential documents.

A Vatican tribunal handed down the verdict against Gabriele on Saturday, October 6, after hearing closing arguments from both prosecution and defense. The prosecution had recommended a 3-year prison term, but the magistrates imposed a lighter sentence, taking into account Gabriele’s “absence of a criminal record,” his service prior to his crimes, his “subjective belief, albeit erroneous” that he was assisting the Holy Father, and his “awareness of having betrayed the trust of the Holy Father.”

At the prosecutor’s request, the tribunal ruled that Gabriele cannot work at any sensitive job at the Vatican in the future. The court also declared that if Gabriele in the future should be employed by the Vatican, he would not be allowed to work in "judicial, administrative or legal" offices.

Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, confirmed that it is likely Pope Benedict will issue a pardon to his former valet. If indeed Gabriele does serve a longer prison term, he would be confined in an Italian jail, under the terms of longstanding arrangements between the Vatican and the Italian government. For now Gabriele remains under house arrest in his apartment in the Vatican grounds. His lawyer has not yet decided whether or not to appeal the verdict against him.

The trial left many observers unconvinced that Gabriele acted alone in leaking confidential papal documents to an Italian reporter. During the trial the magistrates quickly closed off questioning about Vatican officials who might have encouraged Gabriele, and accepted his statement that he had acted alone—although in an interview months ago, conducted anonymously, Gabriele had claimed that a number of people were involved in the “Vatileaks” plot.

Along with questions about motivation, questions about the timing of Gabriele’s thefts remain. Gabriele said that he began collecting Vatican documents after he concluded that the Pope was ill served by some of his subordinates. But the evidence showed that he actually began amassing his trove of documents soon after he became the papal valet in 2006.

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