Vatileaks: Butler ‘stole papers Pope wanted destroyed’
By Nick Squires, Vatican City
Officers from the Vatican Gendarmerie found thousands of papers when they raided Paolo Gabriele’s apartment on May 23, acting on suspicions that he was the mole who had leaked highly compromising material to an Italian investigative journalist, who published it in a book.
The massive haul showed that Mr Gabriele had a keen interest in secret services, espionage, the occult, scandals involving the Vatican bank and the P2, a shadowy Masonic lodge whose members included prominent Italian politicians.
The encoded documents were sent from the Vatican Secretariat of State to papal nuncios, or ambassadors, around the world.
Many of the documents bore the signature of Benedict XVI and shed light on his correspondence with cardinals and other senior figures in the Roman Catholic Church.
Some were originals while others had been photocopied by Mr Gabriele in his Vatican office.
“There were papers where the Holy Father had written ‘to be destroyed’ in German,” said Stefano De Santis, one of the gendarmes who took part in the search.
The vast stash of documents also referred to the death of “God’s banker”, Roberto Calvi, who was found hanging beneath Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982.
Mr Gabriele, 46, had also downloaded from the internet instructions on how to mask his mobile phone number and how to send jpeg files by email.
Four Vatican gendarmes were cross-examined in the court on the third day of his trial for allegedly stealing compromising papers from the Pope’s apartments, where he worked.
They said they seized more than 50 boxes of evidence during their search, including many USB memory devices, two or three computers and an iPad.
One of the gendarmes, Inspector Silvano Carli, said Mr Gabriele had stashed “an infinity of documents” in the study and living room of the apartment he shared with his wife and children.
The most sensitive were “well-hidden” among the piles of material downloaded from the internet.
He said “more than a thousand” were of direct relevance to the investigation into the unprecedented thefts from the Pope’s apartments.
Another gendarme officer, Luca Cintia, denied accusations by Mr Gabriele that during his detention he had been mistreated and kept in a tiny cell with the lights turned on 24 hours a day.
“We treated him with kid gloves, so much so that he thanked us,” said the officer.
On Tuesday the judge in the trial ordered Vatican prosecutors to open an investigation into the accusations of abuse, which allegedly happened at the start of the butler’s 53 day detention without charge in the Gendarmerie’s barracks.
The judge adjourned the trial until Saturday, when it is expected to conclude — after a total of just four hearings.
A panel of three judges will hand down their verdict on Mr Gabriele, who is charged with “aggravated theft”, which carries a penalty of up to four years in jail.
The Vatican is understood to be anxious to finish the trial in time for the opening on Sunday of a gathering of 200 bishops from around the world.
The Synod, established by Pope Paul VI, meets every two to three years to advise the Pope on Church matters.
This year will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council — another reason why the Vatican is keen to draw a line under the butler’s trial.