Pope Benedict XVI has pardoned his former butler, Paolo Gabriele, who was sent to jail in October after being convicted of leaking sensitive documents to the press. The documents alleged corruption in the Vatican.
The pope personally visited Gabriele in his cell on Saturday morning to inform him of the pardon, according to the Vatican.
Spokesman Federico Lombardi said Gabriele was then freed and allowed to return to his wife and children. Gabriele would no longer be allowed to reside in the Vatican or work for the Holy See, Lombardi added.
Gabriele had been serving an 18-month sentence in a Vatican jail cell on a conviction for aggravated theft.
During his trial for what became known as the Vatileaks scandal, Gabriele told a three-judge Vatican court 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.
The information contained in the documents made its way into a book by an Italian journalist about alleged corruption at the Vatican.
"His Holiness: Pope Benedict XVI's Secret Papers," by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, revealed tensions within the Holy See over the leadership of the Vatican's second-ranking official, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The cardinal allegedly covered up corruption and tried to fill posts with his supporters.
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.
jr/ipj (dpa, Reuters, AP)