The ex-papal-butler Paolo Gabriele, accused of stealing and leaking copies of Vatican documents, for six years dressed his employer around dawn and was the last to bid him goodnight.
He was part of the innermost circle, so-called “family”. He rode in the Popemobile with him. He saw private letters, some marked ‘destroy’, in Benedict’s own hand.
Gabriele started out as a humble cleaner. The Vicar of Christ would come to call him ‘Paoletto’.
The 46-year-old reserved family man described as a devout Catholic claims to have been thrown into a crisis of conscience by insights into the inner workings of the Vatican.
Benedict’s private priest-secretary, Monsignor Georg Ganswein, Gabriele’s immediate superior, suspected he was the mole.
Ganswein, a former lecturer at a university funded by the conservative Opus Dei fellowship, was among the first to go into damage control mode following the publication in May of journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi’s book “His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI”. The stuff could only be coming from the pope’s own desk!
The Italian media ate it up – the allegations of cronyism, corruption and conspiracies. Nuzzi said he had more than 10 Vatican whistleblowers.
The current director of the Holy See Press Office, Federico Lombardi, dismissed the book.
He said: “It is all false. We must get to the bottom of this. It’s painful. We must be objective and measured.”
The butler’s trial lasted a week. Some commentators say it is Vatican transparency in action and others say it is a whitewash. The judge stopped him from giving the reasons for his actions.
The Vatican’s criminal laws date from the 19th century.
There were no charges against the journalist to whom Gabriele was accused of leaking documents.