The pope’s ex-butler has been convicted of stealing the pontiff’s private documents and leaking them to a journalist, and has been sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre read the verdict aloud on Saturday one hour after the three-judge panel began deliberating Paolo Gabriele’s fate.
Defence attorney Cristiana Arru said that her client would serve his sentence under house arrest in his
Vatican apartment while awaiting a possible papal pardon.
The prosecution had sought a three-year sentence. The defence, for its part, asked the court to reduce the charges against Paolo Gabriele from “aggravated theft” to “misappropriation,” and for him to be freed.
Gabriele said on Saturday he had acted out of love for the Catholic Church.
“The thing I feel most strongly is the conviction of having acted out of visceral love for the Church of Christ and of its leader on earth. I do not feel I am a thief,” Gabriele told the court at the trial’s final hearing.
Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said shortly after the verdict that the pope is “very likely” to pardon Gabriele, though he would not give any further details.
Gabriele’s father was in the courtroom, the first time a family member had attended his weeklong trial.
Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan, reporting from Rome, said the “informed speculation” is that the butler will not served the 18-month sentence.
“The butler has been effectvely returned to house arrest or remains under house arrest in his own personal grace-and-favour apartment within the Vatican – because he has a couple of days in which his lawyers might announce an appeal,” he said.
Gabriele is accused of stealing the pope’s private correspondence and passing it on to journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, whose book revealed the intrigue, petty infighting and allegations of corruption and homosexual liaisons that plague the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.
The book, His Holiness: Pope Benedict XVI’s Secret Papers, has convulsed the Vatican for months and prompted an unprecedented response, with the pope naming a commission of cardinals to investigate the origin of the leaks.
In her closing arguments, Arru insisted that only photocopies, not original documents, were taken from the Apostolic Palace, disputing testimony from the pope’s secretary, who said she saw original letters in the evidence seized from Gabriele’s home.
She admitted Gabriele’s gesture was “condemnable” but said it was a misappropriation of documents, not theft, and that as a result he should serve no prison time.
Gabriele said he had stolen the documents hoping to expose corrupt dealings in the Vatican. It’s not clear where he will serve his sentence, or if he will be sent back to jail. He has been held on house arrest since July after spending his first two months in a Vatican detention room.
The Vatican has said he would serve any sentence in an Italian prison because it does not have any long-term prison facilities.