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Will the 'Vatileaks' butler be freed in time for Christmas?

After a low-key meeting between the Pope and his advisers, it seems a pardon for Paolo Gabriele is in the offing.

  • Andrea Tornielli
  • Vatican City
  • December 18, 2012
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Pope Benedict XVI received their Emminences Cardinals Julian Herranz, Josef Tomko and Salvatore De Giorgi in an audience today. The event was barely given any focus at all in today’s Vatican Press Office Bulletin, squeezed in between the audience with the Italian Olympic committee and with Palestinian leader Abu Mazen. What is the significance then of the Pope’s meeting with the commission of three cardinals set up to investigate the Vatileaks scandal?

Readers will recall that the three cardinals presented their first report on the case to the Pope last July. The report contained the results of a number of examinations carried out in utmost secrecy. From these, it emerged that the Pope’s former butler, Paolo Gabriele was responsible for the Vatican document leak - he confessed to and was eventually charged with stealing and distributing confidential documents belonging to Benedict XVI. The examinations also gave a clear picture of the climate in which the Vatileaks scandal developed.

It is not unlikely that one of the issues discussed during the meeting was the potential papal pardon for Paolo Gabriele. Some sources say he could be granted a pardon in time for Christmas, which would allow the Pope’s former butler who is currently being held in a Vatican prison cell, to spend the holidays with his family. The Pope wished to make it clear that a pardon was not a given, particularly as the interested party had not demonstrated complete awareness of the gravity of his offence.

The written explanation of how the verdict against Paolo Gabriele was reached, stated that  his crime was a "reprehensible" violation of trust that damaged the Pope himself and the rights of the Holy See, the Vatican City state and the entire Catholic Church. At the same time, however, the judges stated they believed he had acted in good faith for the benefit of the Church, not in order to harm it. The same conclusion seems to have been reached by the cardinals as well.

But this was not the only item in the agenda for today’s audience with the Commission of Cardinals. Indeed, its members continued their examinations even after the summer. So the Vatileaks case has not in theory drawn to a close yet, despite Gabriele and the Vatican computer technician Caludio Sciarpelletti having been tried and sentenced. Sciarpelletti will continue to work in the Secretariat of State but is being moved to the statistics department.

More importantly, now that the confidential documents have revealed the truth about what’s really going on inside the Vatican, there’s no putting a lid on the issue. The Commission of Cardinals has worked really hard and with great determination, explaining that while the Vatican Tribunal took care of the so-called “external hole”, that is, the public consequences of the Vatileaks scandal, the job of the three cardinals appointed by the Pope to investigate into the affair, was to deal with the “internal hole”, though not from a sacramental point of view.

The Commission then did not only look into the Vatican document leak, but also into relations among members of the Roman Curia, existing tensions and the roles of the various figures mentioned in the published documents.

After the Vatileaks scandal broke out, Benedict XVI reconfirm his faith in his collaborators. At the same time, he made some clear-cut decisions: he called for a second Consistory to make up for February’s one in which the cardinals appointed were mainly Italian and most of them Curia members. He created James Harvey (Prefect of the Papal Household) a cardinal, handing the title of Prefect over to his personal secretary Georg Gänswein, whom he also elevated to the dignity of Archbishop.

This strengthened Gänswein’s role as an interface between the Pope and the outside world. And the Pope may have more surprises still in store.

Full Story: Vatileaks: Benedict XVI meets Commission of Cardinals to discuss inquiry outcome 

Source: Vatican Insider/La Stampa

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