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Butler faces trial in theft of pope’s papers

- Associated Press - Monday, August 13, 2012

VATICAN CITY | A Vatican judge on Monday ordered the pope's butler and a fellow lay employee to stand trial on charges of stealing documents from Pope Benedict XVI's private apartment, a scandal that embarrassed the Vatican and exposed infighting and suspected corruption at the highest levels of the Holy See.

The indictment accused Paolo Gabriele, the butler arrested at the Vatican in May, of grand theft, a charge that carries one to six years in jail unless the pope decided to pardon his once-trusted aide.

While the Vatican had insisted throughout the investigation that Mr. Gabriele, a 45-year-old married laymen who lives with his family in Vatican City, was the only person under investigation, the indictment also orders trial for Claudio Sciarpelletti. He is a 48-year-old layman and computer expert in the Secretariat of State Office, who is charged with aiding and abetting Mr. Gabriele.

The Vatican has promised a public trial. Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said both defendants will be tried together before a three-judge panel in late September at the very earliest because the Vatican tribunal is on summer recess until Sept. 20.

A trial date is expected to be announced after the court resumes work.

The Vatican has been on the defensive ever since documents alleging corruption and exposing power struggles began appearing in the Italian media in January. In May, a book by an Italian journalist was published containing dozens of documents from the pope's desk, including letters written to Benedict.

Father Lombardi said the magistrates did not take on the bigger task of grappling with alleged corruption within the top ranks of the church -- the wider, more serious issue revealed by the leaked documents. He declined to comment on whether a special panel of cardinals Benedict set up to deal with the scandal had made any inroads into the wider question of moral wrongdoing among higher-ups.

In the 20-page indictment, Judge Piero Antonio Bonnet ruled that there was no evidence to indict Mr. Sciarpelletti on a charge of revealing secrets and insufficient evidence for a charge of grand theft.

There had been widespread speculation about the possibility of a mole in the secretary of state's office because some of the leaked documents seemed aimed at casting doubt at Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone's ability to be the Vatican's No. 2 as secretary of state.

Vatican investigators found a "mountain of documents" in Mr. Gabriele's Vatican apartment that had been taken from the pope's apartment, Father Lombardi said.

The evidence included a check for $123,000 made out to the pope from a Catholic university. Mr. Gabriele said that in the "disorder" of all the documents he lugged to his private apartment, "it's possible" that the check and other valuables were among the papers.

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