Members of the Vatican police force have testified that they found thousands of pages of documents — about Freemasonry, secret service security forces and internal Vatican letters — inside the Vatican City apartment of Pope Benedict XVI’s former butler, who is on trial for aggravated theft.
Their testimony continued yesterday in a Vatican courtroom in the trial of Paolo Gabriele, the 46-year-old father of three who faces four years in prison if convicted.
On Tuesday, Gabriele declared himself innocent of the charge, but acknowledged he photocopied the pope’s private correspondence, in broad daylight and in the presence of others.
“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,” he said.
Prosecutors say Gabriele stole the pope’s letters and documents alleging power struggles and corruption inside the Vatican and leaked them to a journalist.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Gabriele’s attorney Cristiana Arru complained that her client spent his first 20 days in Vatican detention in a room so small he could not stretch his arms out and with lights kept on 24 hours a day.
The Vatican police responded quickly to Arru’s accusation with a lengthy statement insisting that Gabriele’s rights had been respected, citing the meals, free time, socializing, spiritual assistance and healthcare that Gabriele enjoyed during his nearly two months of detention. They said the lights were kept on for security reasons and to ensure Gabriele did not harm himself, and that he had a mask he could use to block out the light. However, Dalla Torre ordered the prosecutor to open an investigation regardless.
Prosecutors have said Gabriele, 46, has confessed to leaking copies of the documents to Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, because he wanted to expose the “evil and corruption” in the church. They quoted him as saying in a June 5 interrogation that even though 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 on Tuesday if he stood by his confession. Gabriele responded: “Yes.”
They said they found documentation about the secret services, the Freemason secret society and the case of a prominent Catholic editor who was forced to resign after a smear campaign in the Italian press accusing him, based on forged documents, of having pursued a homosexual liaison. Some of that documentation appeared in Nuzzi’s book His Holiness: Pope Benedict XVI’s Secret Papers. The book became an immediate blockbuster when it was published on May 20, detailing intrigue and scandals inside the Apostolic Palace.