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Papal butler to stand trial in leaked documents case

The trial of the once-loyal papal servant charged with leaking confidential Vatican correspondence to the media will begin on Saturday. If convicted, the father of three faces up to four years in prison.

The former butler of Pope Benedict XVI, Paolo Gabriele, is set to stand trial before a three-judge panel in the rarely used Vatican court on Saturday. He faces charges of aggravated theft.

When Vatican gendarmes arrested Gabriele at his home in May this year, they found copies of confidential papal documents, as well as gifts intended for the pope, including a 100,000 euro ($129,000) check.

Secrets revealed

Gabriele is accused of meeting with and leaking the papers to investigative reporter Gianluigi Nuzzi.

According to the indictment, Gabriele has confessed to the charges, noting that he was disgusted by the "evil and corruption" he saw at the Vatican.

He said he was acting as an "agent" of the Holy Spirit.

The leaked correspondence shed a light on the inner workings of the Holy See, pointing to a power struggle at the Church's highest levels.

The 85-year-old pope is said by the Vatican to have been deeply hurt by the betrayal.

In addition to his confession, Gabriele has written to the pope begging for forgiveness.

Jail or pardon

If convicted, Gabriele faces up to four years in an Italian prison.

Many expect, however, that the pope will pardon Gabriele in the case of a conviction.

Another man, Vatican computer programmer Claudio Sciarpelletti, is also standing trial for the less serious crime of accessory to theft. He faces up to a year in prison if convicted.

tm/jlw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)