Pope's leaked letters prompt aide's arrest

Paolo Gabriele is seated at the left, front as the pontiff arrives in St. Peter's Square May 2.


Paolo Gabriele is seated at the left, front as the pontiff arrives in St. Peter's Square May 2.

June 4, 2012

The Vatican said it is committed to restoring a sense of trust and transparency as it seeks the truth behind leaks of letters written by Vatican officials to each other and Pope Benedict.

Paolo Gabriele – the pope's private assistant accused of having a cache of illicitly obtained Vatican documents – was still under arrest and would face his first round of formal preliminary questioning by Vatican judges "later this week or early next week," Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said May 29.

Lombardi confirmed that an unspecified number of other individuals also had been questioned by Vatican police recently, a process that could be expected to continue, but no one else had been charged or arrested.

Gabriele has been able to meet and speak with his lawyers and his wife regularly, and is "very serene and calm," said his chief counsel, Carlo Fusco, in a written statement released May 28.

Lombardi said May 28 the Vatican "is committed to seeking to restore as soon as possible a climate of transparency, truth and trust."

"The pope is informed about everything and can't help but be saddened, however, he remains serene" concerning the latest crisis, he told journalists.

Gabriele, the dark-haired assistant often pictured sitting in the front seat of the popemobile next to the driver, was arrested the evening of May 23 by Vatican police after private Vatican documents were found in his home, which is on Vatican territory.

Gabriele, who had been serving Pope Benedict since 2006, had performed his regular duties the morning of the day of his arrest, suggesting perhaps that Vatican police did not find enough evidence until later in the day, Lombardi said.

Gabriele's arrest was part of a Vatican investigation into a series of document leaks, popularly referred to as VatiLeaks in the media.

The leaks began in January with the publication of letters written by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano when he was secretary-general of the Governor's Office of Vatican City State.


The archbishop, who now is nuncio to the United States, warned of corruption, abuse of power, a lack of transparency in awarding Vatican contracts and opposition to financial reforms.

Later leaks included a letter from a Vatican official questioning the current reform of the Vatican's finance laws.

Lombardi told journalists May 28 that the leaks' scandal and the recent dismissal of the president of the Vatican Bank were "distinct and separate" cases.

Meanwhile, Fusco, Gabriele's lawyer, said in a written statement May 28 that his client told a Vatican judge that he "will offer his utmost collaboration."

However, Gabriele's formal testimony will only come after his two lawyers have completed studying the case, the statement said.


"Therefore, Paolo (Gabriele) will respond as soon as possible to every question and will collaborate with investigators in order to ascertain the truth," wrote the lawyer.

Lombardi said the investigation would continue until enough evidence has been collected and then Piero Antonio Bonnet, the Vatican magistrate overseeing the inquiry, would either call Gabriele to stand trial or would acquit him.

In April, Pope Benedict appointed a committee of three retired cardinals to investigate the document leaks; the cardinals turned to the Vatican gendarmes for assistance.


Dozens of private letters to Pope Benedict and other confidential Vatican correspondence and reports, including encrypted cables from Vatican embassies around the world, were leaked to an Italian journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi.

He published the documents in a book, Your Holiness, which was released May 17. While some of the leaked letters are gossipy, others include allegations of serious financial misconduct.

In the book's introduction, Nuzzi said the main source for the texts told him he was acting with a "small group" of Vatican insiders concerned about corruption and a thirst for power within the Vatican.