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They described Mr. Gabriele as a devout but misguided would-be whistleblower who believed the Holy Spirit had inspired him to protect and inform the pope about the problems around him.

Mr. Gabriele is being tried along with a co-defendant, Claudio Sciarpelletti, a computer expert in the Secretariat of State who is charged with aiding and abetting Mr. Gabriele.

While the Vatican legal system will be on display during the trial, so too will be the peculiarities of the Vatican city state itself, the world’s smallest sovereign state.

Mr. Gabriele is both a Vatican citizen and resident of a Vatican City apartment (one of 595 citizens of whom 247 are residents).

So the pope is not only Mr. Gabriele’s former boss, he is also his landlord, his spiritual head as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church and his head of state, not to mention the authority who appointed the prosecutor and the three lay judges who will hear Mr. Gabriele’s case and decide by majority if he is guilty.