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Vatican police arrest pope's butler

Paolo Gabriele found in possession of private Vatican documents

  • Patrick MacLachlan, Bangkok
  • Vatican City
  • May 26, 2012
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Pope Benedict XVI’s butler has been detained in connection with an ongoing series of leaks of confidential papers from the Vatican.

Paolo Gabriele was arrested yesterday and is being questioned by Vatican magistrates. Police say they have unearthed a cache of private letters and documents from his Vatican City apartment.

Pope Benedict is quoted in some reports as being "saddened and struck" when he heard news of the arrest.

Seen constantly at the Pope's side, Gabriele is said to have more contact with him on a daily basis than any other person.  He is one of the very few laymen to have uninterrupted, self-dictated access to the most private rooms of the Papal apartments.

It was the Pope himself who instigated an inquiry last month into the so-called Vatileaks scandal. He appointed three cardinals to head a team charged with tracking down the source of the unprecedented leaks, which have angered and embarrassed the Vatican since late January.

The letters include correspondence to the pope from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who is now nuncio to the United States.

Written while Vigano was heading the Vatican City's management commission, they contain allegations of ingrained mismanagement, cronyism and inefficiency, as well as a fervent appeal for Vigano not to be sent to fill the US nuncio's position.

If it is decided that Gabriele should be charged, he will be brought to trial in an Italian criminal court as a layman. Had he been a Churchman, he may have been tried instead by a Vatican tribunal for breaching ecclesiastical law.

This has been a turbulent week for the Vatican. On Thursday, just one day before Gabriele's detention, the head of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was forced to resign amid an ongoing police investigation.

There has been widespread speculation, so far unsubstantiated, that he too has played a part in the Vatileaks affair.

Earlier in the week there was anger over the release of Your Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI, a book by investigative journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, which contains a great deal more private papal correspondence.
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