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Pope's former butler sentenced to 18 months

Pope Benedict XVI's former butler has been sentenced to one year and six months in jail for stealing and leaking confidential papal documents. The prosecution had asked for a three year sentence.

Paolo Gabriele told a three-judge Vatican court on Saturday that he had acted out of a "visceral" love for the Roman Catholic Church and the pope by leaking the documents, and maintained that he was not a thief.

Gabriele was part of the so-called "papal family," one of fewer than 10 people who had a key to the elevator that leads directly to the pope's apartments. The 46-year-old former butler has admitted to leaking confidential papal documents to the Italian press.

He says he leaked the documents because he saw "evil and corruption everywhere in the Church," and that the information was being hidden from the pope. The four-hearing trial and the leaked documents revealed details of the inner-workings of the Vatican, long known for its secrecy.

The leaked documents served as the basis for the book "His Holiness: Pope Benedict XVI's Secret Papers," by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi. The book revealed tensions within the Holy See over the leadership of the Vatican's second-ranking official, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who allegedly covered up corruption and tried to fill posts with his supporters.

Reduced sentence

Although the prosecution had originally asked for a three year sentence on charges of aggravated theft, the defense had called for the charges to be reduced to "misappropriation" and for Gabriele to be freed.

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Pope's ex-butler gets 18 months in jail

The former butler has asked Pope Benedict for forgiveness, saying he loved the pope "as a son would." There is still the possibility that the pope could pardon Gabriele.

"Paolo Gabriele may well be pardoned but it will certainly send a message in the Vatican about how people behave," said Greg Burke, a senior communications advisor for the Vatican. "In the past there's often been the idea that anybody could get away with anything, that's not the case."

If he is not pardoned, Gabriele will serve his sentence in an Italian jail, as the Vatican does not have prison facilities.

slk/msh (Reuters, dpa)

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