Pope Francis has freed Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda, a senior official in the Catholic Church who leaked Vatican secrets to journalists. Earlier this year, the Spaniard was sentenced to 18 months in jail.
The Vatican said Tuesday that the pope had ordered the Christmas clemency because Vallejo had already served half his sentence in connection with the so-called Vatileaks 2 affair.
The "act of mercy" by Pope Francis means the Spaniard can enjoy conditional freedom effective immediately, although the conviction and sentence will remain on his file.
In July, Vallejo was found guilty of leaking confidential documents to journalists while acting as a high-ranking Vatican financial official. But he and a co-defendant were cleared of forming a criminal organization to do so.
The two journalists, Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi, last year wrote blockbuster books based on the leaked documents, exposing the greed of bishops and cardinals angling for big apartments, the extraordinarily high costs of naming a saint and the loss to the Holy See of millions of euros in rental income because of undervalued real estate.
No professional ties with Holy See
Having been fired from his job as a senior Vatican financial official, Vallejo will now fall under the authority of his local bishop in Astorga, Spain. He will no longer have any professional ties with the Holy See.
Another member of the committee that leaked papers was handed a 10-month suspended jail term in July, while the two journalists who used the information were acquitted.
Publishing confidential information is a crime in the Vatican, punishable by up to eight years in prison.
The act of clemency by Francis during the Christmas period mirrored his predecessor Pope Benedict, who in December 2012 pardoned his former butler Paolo Gabriele.
Gabriele had been convicted of leaking some of Benedict's personal documents in what was known as the first Vatileaks case.
mm/cmk (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)