(Vatican Radio) - The trial against Pope Benedict XVI’s former butler, Paolo Gabriele,
concluded Saturday morning, with a guilty verdict and 18 month prison sentence. However
the Holy See Press Office director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, has not ruled out the possibility
of a Papal pardon.
Following the fourth and final hearing the President of the Vatican Court – Judge dalla Torre - read out the verdict finding the defendant guilty of aggravated theft of the Holy Father’s personal and private documents.
Journalists present said the accused listened impassively to the sentence after earlier declaring he did not see himself as a thief and adding he had acted “out of love for the Church and for its leader on earth.” During his final statement to the court, Gabriele confirmed he had acted alone and without accomplices.
The charge of aaggravated theft usually carries a sentence of four years in prison. However the court took into account extenuating circumstances: these include Gabriele’s claim - even if erroneous - that he was acting for the good of the Church and his admission of having wounded the Holy Father.
A partial ban was handed down on any future employment. Should Gabriele remain a Vatican employee he will not be allowed to work in any offices that deal with " judicial, administrative or legal” affairs.
Paolo Gabriele’s lawyer has not ruled out the possibility of appealing the sentence, given what she has described as “holes” in the judicial investigation. However Ms Arrua also described Saturday’s verdict as “balanced”.
For now she said Paolo Gabriele will remain under house arrest in his family home in Vatican City State. The Court must meet again to decide if and when Gabriel will be imprisoned.
The Director of the Vatican Press Office, Fr Federico Lombardi, praised the “total independence” of the Vatican court and the speed with which it arrived at the sentence - which he described as “clement and just”. He also left open the possibility of a pardon by Pope Benedict XVI.