Author defends pope’s former butler, seeks clemency

The author of the book that revealed alleged Vatican secrets appealed for clemency on Monday after a Vatican tribunal sentenced Paolo Gabriele, the pope’s former butler, to an 18-month sentence house arrest for stealing private papal correspondence.

Several European newspapers published an op-ed piece by Gianluigi Nuzzi, the book’s author, defending the actions of Gabriele, the Associated Press reported.

Gabriele has been convicted on Saturday of aggravated theft for stealing the pope’s private correspondence and passing it onto Nuzzi.

Gabriele confessed to photocopying some of the pope’s private letters and giving them to Nuzzi, saying he wanted to shed light on the “evil and corruption” he saw around him in the Vatican that he believed was being kept from the pope.

Nuzzi said he wanted to further explain Gabriele’s motives, which he said he ascertained over the course of several encounters that formed the basis of the book “His Holiness: Pope Benedict XVI’s Secret Papers,” which was published in May.

He said Gabriele was at the receiving end of disgruntled Vatican cardinals, bishops and managers who came to him “day after day” with their secrets and concerns “hoping he would bring them to the pope.”

“Surely enjoying a privileged point of view — for six years he was one of the people closest to the Holy Father in the pontifical apartment — Gabriele strongly doubted that Benedict XVI was always aware or received truthful information,” Nuzzi wrote.

“He spoke to me about this profound perplexity, his discomfort as evidenced by a filial love for the pope, a veneration for his simplicity, recounting stories of a man in the middle of the wolves.”

Many of the issues Gabriele brought to light haven’t yet been explained, “but certainly they explain the frustration of a man who, when confronting these intrigues, perceived the fragility of his pastor in a battle between good and evil,” Nuzzi wrote.

The three-judge Vatican tribunal reduced Gabriele’s three-year sentence in half, in part because he admitted he had betrayed the pope and thought “albeit erroneously” that he was doing the right thing.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi  said a papal pardon is “likely” although there’s no knowing when it might come.

Nuzzi appealed for a pardon, noting that Gabriele’s leaks didn’t reveal state or military secrets but merely shed light on events that were damaging the church.

Nuzzi was neither charged in the case nor called to testify. The Vatican didn’t investigate him for receiving stolen goods because the handoff of documents occurred on Italian soil, out of the Vatican’s jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, the swift conviction of Gabriele leaves lingering suspicions that he was a pawn in a much larger Vatican intrigue, Reuters reported.

The report said that despite the Vatican’s desire to quickly turn the page on one of the worst scandals in its recent history, the trial of Gabriele has left many questions unanswered, leading some to call it a whitewash.



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