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Pope's butler says he betrayed the trust of the pontiff he loved like a father

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 2nd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Paolo Gabriele, Pope Benedict XVI's former butler claims that he is innocent of a charge of aggravated theft of the pope's private correspondence. Appearing reticent in court, he also said he felt guilty that he betrayed the trust of the pontiff he loved like a father.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Gabriele took the stand in a Vatican courtroom to defend himself. Prosecutors maintain that he stole papal letters and documents alleging power struggles and corruption inside the Vatican. He then allegedly passed on the photocopies to a journalist in one of the most harmful scandals of Benedict's pontificate.

Gabriele now faces four years in prison if he is found guilty. Most Vatican watchers expect he will receive a papal pardon if he is convicted.

Prosecutors have says that the 46-year-old father of three has confessed to leaking copies of the documents to Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi. Gabriele said that he wanted to expose the "evil and corruption" in the church. Prosecutors quoted him as saying in a June 5 interrogation that while he knew taking the documents was wrong, he felt inspired by the Holy Spirit "to bring the church back on the right track."

Judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre asked Gabriele if he stood by his confession, to which he replied "Yes."

Asked by his attorney Cristiana Arru how he responded to the charge of aggravated theft, Gabriele said: "I declare myself innocent concerning the charge of aggravated theft. I feel guilty of having betrayed the trust of the Holy Father, whom I love as a son would."

Gabriele says that he had no accomplices, although he acknowledged that many people inside the Vatican trusted him and would come to him with their problems and concerns.

The trial opened over this past weekend inside the intimate ground-floor tribunal in the Vatican's courthouse tucked behind St. Peter's Basilica. Many expect the matter will be concluded within three more hearings.

The court also heard from four witnesses, including the pope's private secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, who along with Gabriele was the closest assistant to the pontiff.

Gaenswein said he began having suspicions about Gabriele after he realized three documents that appeared in Nuzzi's book could only have come from the office he shared with Gabriele and Benedict's other private secretary.

"This was the moment when I started to have my doubts," Gaenswein said.

"His Holiness: Pope Benedict XVI's private papers," became an immediate blockbuster when it was published last May. The book detailed intrigue and scandals inside the Apostolic Palace. The leaked documents seemed primarily aimed at discrediting Benedict's No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, often criticized for perceived shortcomings in running the Vatican administration.

Gaenswein said that upon the publication of the book, he asked the pope's permission to convene a meeting of the small papal family to ask each member if they were the ones who had taken the documentation.

One member, Cristina Cernetti, one of the pope's four housekeepers, told the court she knew immediately that Gabriele was to blame because she could exclude without a doubt any other member of the family.

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