Suspect in Vatican leaks agrees to testify; cardinal under suspicion

Accused of leaking confidential information from the Vatican, Paolo Gabriele has agreed to cooperate with investigators. The former butler of Pope Benedict, Gabriele was arrested on May 24 by Vatican police and is being held in a cell at the Vatican City. The Italian media is circulating rumors that a cardinal of the Church may be involved in the scandal. However, papal spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi has said “there is no cardinal under suspicion.”

Incriminating documents were found in Gabriele’s Vatican City apartment. Often seen in the company of the pope, Gabriele was frequently photographed while sitting in the so-called Pope-mobile during papal visits. The man who “lives in the Pope’s shadow” is the one person sees Pope Benedict most frequently on a daily basis even though he is not ordained nor holds any other ecclesiastical distinctions.

Gabriele’s arrest came during the same week as the president of the Vatican Bank was ousted after the book Your Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI revealed that conflicts over his management of the institution led to clashes within the Church. Banker Ettore Gotti Tedeschi said that he  would have to say “ugly things” in order to defend himself, so he would instead stay quiet out of his respect for Pope Benedict, reports the Los Angeles Times.  The author of You Holiness, Gianluigi Nuzzi, says he met with the Vatican whistle-blower in an unfurnished apartment near the Vatican, according to the UK-based Guardian.

Italian media had already been publishing letters for several months that revealed the conflicts that exist within the Vatican, raising doubts that butler Gabriele was the sole source of the leaks. “His arrest seems more the Vatican’s desire to find a scapegoat,” a Vatican expert told the New York Times.

Meanwhile, Gabriele is currently in custody in a Vatican jail and has met with his attorney and wife. Attorney Carlos Fusco said on May 28 that Gabriele is "very serene and calm," despite the cacophony of rumors and conspiracy theories concerning his arrest and detention. Fusco said that Gabriele has told a Vatican judge investigating the case that he will "respond to all the questions and will collaborate with investigators to ascertain the truth."

 Italian daily La Repubblica published a rambling interview on May 28 with what it described as another Vatican "mole" who described the various agendas at play behind the leaks. The mole said the aim was to highlight Pope Benedict’s supposed weakness and the fears of his secretary of state, but also to make clear that the "fundamental role of the Church is to defend the Gospel, not accumulate power and money."

Vatican spokesman Rev. Lombardi dismissed the rash of unsourced reports in Italian media as “pure fantasy. Gabriele, a 46-year-old father of three, was always considered extremely loyal to Pope Benedict and the deceased  Pope John Paul II, for whom he briefly served. Vatican insiders have said they were baffled by his alleged involvement, and Lombardi said Monday that the entire scandal has caused pain throughout the Vatican.  Pope Benedict appointed a committee of cardinals to investigate the leaks, and is being kept abreast of developments. According to Rev. Lombardi, the pontiff is "aware of the delicate situation that the Roman curia is going through." Lombardi said the investigation is intended to "reestablish a climate of clarity, truth, transparency and trust as soon as possible." 



Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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