Vatileaks: Gabriele says he had no accomplices, got no money but was mistreated
Former papal butler tells his side of the story during trial. The pope’s personal secretary rejects the butler’s claims about why and when he took the documents. Vatican Gendarmerie says the accused was treated in a friendly manner.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Former papal butler Paolo Gabriele said he did not have any direct accomplices but was “in contact” with some people. He began “collecting” documents in 2010 when the “case of Mgr Carlo Maria Viganò came to light”. Baffled and disconcerted “by a situation that had become unbearable and widespread in the Vatican,” he “started believing that it was easy to manipulate a person that has so much power in his hands,” namely the pope.
The much-awaited trial of Benedict XVI’s butler began today. Charged with stealing papal documents, Paolo Gabriele said he only photocopied them. However, called to testify today, the pope’s personal secretary, Mgr Georg Gaenswein, has questioned the butler’s claims that all he did was to photocopy documents and that he had started in 2010.
“When I went with the gendarmes to see the documents taken from Paolo Gabriele, I saw original documents as well as photocopies. The oldest originals I saw dated back to 2006, when Paolo Gabriele joined the service.”
“I saw original documents and copies from 2006, 2007 and 2008.” Statements by the gendarmes indicate that many of the papers seized “involved the Free Masons and the Secret Services” [emphasis added].
During the hearing, Paolo Gabriele complained about abuses during his detention. He said he was held for about 20 days in a small cell with lights kept on 24 hours a day, with negative consequences for his eyesight.
“Every cell in the Vatican, even the smallest, meets international standards,” said Fr Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office.
What is more, Gabriele received various visitors during that period, Fr Lombardi said. Hence, it is strange that his allegations should emerge only now.
In a press release, the Vatican Gendarmerie said that Gabriele “had constant contacts, especially in early days, with spiritual assistants, that he attended Holy mass with his family, that he was authorised unlimited visiting hours with his relatives and was able to see his lawyers, that his rights were fully respected.”
The presiding judge, Giuseppe Dalla Torre, charged Nicola Picardi, the promoter of justice (prosecutor) with opening a file (n. 52/20120) on the matter.
Gabriele, who has pleaded innocence, said he feels “guilty only of betraying the trust the Holy Father placed in me,” adding that he loved the pope as a son would.
“I did not have any accomplices,” he explained. In exchange for Benedict XVI’s personal papers, he did “I receive any money or benefits,” he said, whether for himself or for others.
The former butler did not mention the gifts given to the pope that were found in his flat: an apparent gold nugget hidden in his shoes, a check for 100,000 Euros “found later among the documents that were discovered,” as well as an ancient version of Virgil’s Aeneid.
Explaining why he took the documents, Gabriele said that he had been “influenced by the situation, especially the realisation that I was faced with unsolved mysteries. I had many contacts, and shared confidences with Cardinals Sardi and Comastri, Mgr Francesco Cavina, bishop of Carpi, and Ingrid Stampa, who has been the pope’s housekeeper from the time he was Card Joseph Ratzinger.