World Bulletin/News Desk
A Vatican court convicted Pope Benedict's former butler of stealing sensitive documents and sentenced him to 18 months in prison on Saturday, at the end of one of the most sensational trials in the recent history of the Holy See.
A Vatican spokesman said the pope, who reigns as a supreme monarch in the world's smallest city-state, would "most likely" pardon Paolo Gabriele, which would mean he would not have to serve his sentence.
Paolo Gabriele, Pope Benedict's former butler convicted of stealing sensitive documents, will serve his sentence under house arrest in his Vatican apartment while awaiting a possible papal pardon, his lawyer said.
The court delivered its verdict after two hours of deliberations and closing arguments by the prosecution and the defence.
Gabriele had admitted being the source of leaks of highly sensitive papers, including letters to the pope that alleged corruption in the Vatican's business dealings.
"What I feel most strongly inside myself is the conviction that I acted exclusively out of love, I would say a visceral love, for the Church of Christ and its visible representative," he said in an impassive voice during a final appeal to the court.
"If I have to repeat it, I am not a thief," he added.
The prosecution had asked for a three-year sentence while the defence asked the court to reduce the charges from aggravated theft to misappropriation and for him to be freed.
The head of the three-judge panel, wearing a black robe with gold tassels, read the verdict with the opening words: "In the name of Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, gloriously reigning, the court has invoked the Holy Trinity and has reached its sentence."
The judge said he had given Gabriele a lighter sentence because he had no previous criminal record. Gabriele's lawyer and the Vatican spokesman said the former butler would be returned to house arrest in the Vatican for the time being.
The lawyer said she would decide after reading the court's formal explanation of its verdict whether to file an appeal.
The trial, which started last Saturday, threw open the window on a betrayal of trust and sensitive secrets in the Vatican.
A former member of the small, select group known as "the papal family", Gabriele was one of fewer than 10 people who had a key to an elevator leading directly to the pope's apartments.
In the course of the trial, intimate details emerged of the inner workings of an institution long renowned for its secrecy.
The documents Gabriele leaked constituted one of the biggest crises of Pope Benedict's papacy when they emerged in a muckraking expose by an Italian journalist earlier this year.
The case has been an embarrassment for the Vatican, coming at a time when it was keen to rid itself from the taint left by a series of scandals involving sexual abuse of minors by clerics around the world and mismanagement at its bank.
Gabriele told investigators before the trial began that he leaked the documents because he saw "evil and corruption everywhere in the Church" and that information was being hidden from the pope.
Earlier this week Gabriele accused the Holy See's police of mistreating him while in custody. Members of the force in turn depicted the butler as a man obsessed with the occult, Masonic lodges and secret services.
The Nejashi Mosque was built in the 4th century by the companions of the Prophet Mohammad.
German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel takes swipe at Britain over asylum seekers
With Athens being the only European capital without a mosque, Greek Muslims are fighting to have their own Greek public mosque funded by the Greek state.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter talks on Congress that U.S. only training 60 Syrian opposition soldiers and it is far below expectations
Western Union restarts money transfer service in Greece, over it shut its services on June 29 for a week
Uruguay settles $400 mln Venezuela oil debt at 35 pct discount
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday a weapons embargo on Iran was the main obstacle still to be overcome at talks
Two major African NGOs lodge case with regional tribunal to demand Burundi postpone controversial election
In a document published on Tuesday, the ECB spelt out instances in which Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) provision would conflict with its objectives
Migrant sailboat sinks in Aegean sea between Turkey and Greece, at least 17 people missing. Greek authorities say the operation is ongoing.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says Iran and other countries to continue negotiations on nuclear deal.
Despite the World Medical Association deeming the force feeding of prisoners illegal, the Israeli Knesset have voted in favor of a bill that will force Israeli prisons to force feed hunger striking prisoners.
Eurogroup head to meet new Greek finance minister ahead of plenary meeting
The only bookstore that is in Kardhzali Bulgaria has proven to be a hit with the local population, providing the Muslims and the general public a much needed service.
US Treasury secretary spoke with Alexis Tsipras on resolving crisis resume
British documents reveal Athens proposed sending troops in response to Turkish Cypriot independence