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Pope Benedict forgives butler who stole sensitive documents

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 23rd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Pope Benedict XVI granted his former butler Paolo Gabriele a Christmas pardon this weekend. The pope forgave him personally for the theft of his private papers in one of the gravest Vatican security breaches of recent times. After the brief, 15-minute meeting, Gabriele was freed and returned to his Vatican City apartment where he lives with his wife and three children.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - However, the Vatican said he couldn't continue living or working within the Vatican, but would assist him in finding another job.

"This is a paternal gesture toward someone with whom the pope for many years shared daily life," according to a statement from the Vatican secretariat of state.

It is hoped that this will close a painful and embarrassing chapter for the Vatican. The VatiLeaks scandal was a Hollywood-like scandal that exposed power struggles, intrigue and allegations of corruption and homosexual liaisons within the highest levels of the Catholic Church.

The 46-year-old Gabriele was arrested in May after Vatican police found what they called an "enormous" stash of papal documents in his Vatican City apartment. Convicted of aggravated theft by a Vatican tribunal in October, he has been serving his 18-month sentence in the Vatican police barracks.

Gabriele told Vatican investigators he gave the documents to Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi because he thought the 85-year-old pope wasn't being informed of the "evil and corruption" in the Vatican. He sincerely believed that exposing the corruption publicly would put the church back on the right track.

Gabriele testified during the trial that he loved the pope "as a son loves his father" and said he never meant to hurt the pontiff or the church. A photograph was circulated with Pope Benedict and his former butler depicted Gabriele dressed in his typical dark gray suit, smiling.

The publication of the leaked documents, first on Italian television then in Nuzzi's book "His Holiness: Pope Benedict XVI's Secret Papers" convulsed the Vatican all year. The papal pardon had been expected before Christmas, and the jailhouse meeting Benedict used to personally deliver it recalled the image of Pope John Paul II visiting Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who shot him in 1981, while he served his sentence in an Italian prison.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the meeting was "intense" and "personal" and said that during it Benedict "communicated to him in person that he had accepted his request for pardon, commuting his sentence."

It must be noted that none of the leaked documents threatened the papacy. Most were of interest only to Italians, as they concerned relations between Italy and the Vatican and a few local scandals and personalities.

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