Skooter reporting 09/29/12
Paolo Gabriele, Pope Benedict's former butler, went on trial on Saturday and considered to be one of the most upsetting episodes in recent Vatican history.
Gabriele, 46, who served the pope his meals and helped him dress, began at 9:30 a.m. (0730 GMT) in the Vatican's small room tribunal complete with rich paneled wood and a papal emblem on its ceiling.
Gabriele was arrested in May after police found confidential documents in his apartment inside the Vatican, a spectacular development that threw the global media attention on an institution battling to defend its status from allegations of graft.
The fate of Gabriele, whom the pope used to call “Paoletto” or little Paul, will be decided by a three-judge panel, and who is now described in Vatican documents as "the defendant".
Gabriele is accused of stealing the pontiff's private papers and giving them away to the media in what he thought was an attempt to get rid of corruption at the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.
A team of eight journalists were allowed into the courtroom and were obliged to brief other reporters at the end of the first session, which was expected to last up to three hours.
Based on an indictment last August, Gabriele confessed to investigators he had acted because he saw evil and corruption everywhere in the Church and wanted to help getting rid of it because the pope was not adequately knowledgeable. The documents referred to said to reveal a power struggle at the Church’s highest echelons.
Gabriele said to have considered himself as a whistle-blower of the Holy Spirit is widely believed to be convicted on charges of aggravated theft because he has confessed.
Rome resident Sergio Caldari in Saint Peter’s Square was quoted as saying, "He has done harm by leaking this information because there will always be somebody who will take advantage of these things to denigrate the Church.”
Giovanni Maisto, another local observer, said he was confident that the trial could mark a new height of openness and transparency in the Church’s dealings.
The trial events will be based on a 19th century Italian penal code and if convicted, Gabriele could face a prison sentence of up to four years and one year for Claudio Sciarpelletti, a computer expert charged with helping and assisting him.