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.
NATO has been stationing troops in eastern Europe for months, in response to Russia's actions however communication is open to prevent a potential conflict
In a disgraceful incident, French police threatened a Muslim woman with pepper spray before forcing her to strip off her burkini whilst she was on a Nice beach with her family
Russian President Vladimir Putin, will watch a friendly match with President Erdogan to be played in Antalya at the end of the month
State Dept. spokesman says Washington now considering request by Ankara for extradition of FETO leader facing coup charges
US Vice President has departed Latvia, but not before assuring a pledge of support for NATO allies and slamming Trump, saying that he should not be taken seriously
Group that includes active general murdered victims, falsified records, authorizes say
Adil Oksuz donated $5,000 to Clinton two years ago via a fictitious company, USA Today report says
FBI investigating alleged attacks by Russian government, according to sources speaking to CNN
Buildinds have collapsed in villages close to the epicentre of the earthquake with three people reportedly killed
French capital is 'going through an industrial disaster,' says head of region’s tourism committee
Chancellor says Germans expect allegiance from long-term residents
US Secretray of State Kerry to meet President Muhammadu Buhari
Armed gangs stealing with impunity, Juba merchants claim, as country faces return to violence
Boko Haram factional leader Abubakar Shekau 'fatally wounded', military claims
The trio were accused of threatening to kill Supreme Court judges during radio show in June
There was no comment from Iraqi authorities on the claim