Friday, June 1, 2012

Pope’s butler to be questioned

VATICAN CITY— A Vatican magistrate will next week begin to question Pope Benedict XVI’s butler who is in custody for allegedly stealing papal documents, the pontiff’s spokesman said Thursday.

Paolo Gabriele’s questioning “should take place not before next Monday or even Tuesday,” Father Federico Lombardi said.

Gabriele, 46, a Vatican citizen, was arrested last Friday and has since been charged with theft, following the discovery of the documents in the flat he shares with his wife and three children.

It is believed that among the documents found in the butler’s possession are several that in recent months were leaked to Italian newspapers.

A judge serving for the Vatican tribunal, Piero Antonio Bonnet, would conduct Gabriele’s interrogation in the presence of the butler’s lawyers, Carlo Fusco and Cristiana Arru, Lombardi said.

Since his arrest, Gabriele has been detained in a so-called secure room in the offices of the Vatican Gendarmerie, the 150-man strong police force inside the walled city-state.

Gabriele’s lawyers are reportedly preparing a request for their client to be granted conditions of house arrest.

On Wednesday, the pope made his first public remarks on the scandal, expressing “sadness” at the events - but also accused some media of blowing them out of proportion and “offering an image of the Holy See, which does not correspond to reality.”

Some of the documents allegedly found in Gabriele’s possession are also believed to have been used in a book that went on sale in Italy last week. In some, senior clerics wrote to the pontiff to alert him of cases of alleged cronyism and corruption in Vatican contracts.

Several commentators have interpreted them as proof of the existence of a power struggle involving clerics opposed to the Vatican’s second highest official, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

Several Italian newspapers reported at the weekend that an Italian cardinal and a woman working in the papal household were also being treated as suspect. Lombardi has described the reports as “pure fantasy.”

- Peter Mayer
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