VATICAN CITY - A Vatican tribunal determined the two suspects indicted for their parts in the VatiLeaks' scandal should be tried separately.

During the opening session of the trial Sept. 29, the judges said the trial against Paolo Gabriele, the papal assistant charged with aggravated theft, would continue Oct. 2. A separate trial for Claudio Sciarpelletti on charges of aiding and abetting Gabriele will be scheduled at a later date, they said.

Giuseppe Dalla Torre, the presiding judge, said four more sessions "should be sufficient" for completing Gabriele's trial.

Gabriele, a 46-year-old married father of three, will be the first person to be questioned Oct. 2. No members of Gabriele's family were present for the trial's opening. Although under Vatican law a defendant is not obliged to appear in person, Gabriele was present in the courtroom Sept. 29.

Sciarpelletti, a computer technician in the Vatican Secretariat of State, was represented by his lawyer, who said his client fell ill unexpectedly because he felt too nervous.

The trial's first session, in a small Vatican courtroom just to the southwest of the apse of St. Peter's Basilica, lasted two and a half hours, which included an 80-minute break during which the judges went behind closed doors to consider the motions and objections made by the defense lawyers as the trial opened. They decided:
— The court would exclude evidence from two interviews Domenico Giani, head of the Vatican police force, conducted with Gabriele while in custody because they were done without the presence of his lawyers.
— The court would exclude information gathered during a conversation between Giani and Msgr. Georg Ganswein, the Pope's secretary, concerning how Gabriele allegedly obtained a check for 100,000 euro (almost $123,000 U.S.) and a nugget of what's presumed to be gold, which were reportedly found in Gabriele's possession.
Meanwhile, the judges rejected other motions entered by the defense, including:
— A request for a ruling that a security camera installed on the landing outside Gabriele's Vatican apartment lacked the proper authorization from Vatican judges.
— A request to enter into evidence transcripts of interviews conducted by a papally appointed commission of cardinals to investigate how information is handled and released by various Vatican offices. The judges determined the cardinal's work was a matter concerning the Catholic Church and not Vatican City State.
— An argument that the judges were not competent to hear a case which could involve matters falling under the so-called "pontifical secret" because, the judges said, the contents of the stolen documents were not the object of the investigation.
— A motion to overturn the indictment on the basis that it was too "generic."
— A request for the floor plan of Ganswein's office. The judges cited security concerns in denying the request.

The judges also said they would rule on other motions at a later date, including:
— Whether to accept evidence gathered from the apartment Gabriele used when he was with the Pope at Castel Gandolfo. The defense said the material was gathered without informing the defendant or his lawyers.
— Whether or not to test the presumed gold nugget for fingerprints.

At the beginning of the trial, the presiding judge called the names of the 13 people asked to testify either by the court or by the defense teams. Eight witnesses will be called to testify in Gabriele's trial and five are set to be called for Sciarpelletti's case. The Gabriele witness list includes six Vatican police officers, as well as Ganswein and Cristina Cernetti, one of the consecrated laywomen who work in the papal household. Neither of them was present in the courtroom.

The Sciarpelletti witness list includes: Gabriele; Giani; Maj. William Kloter, vice commander of the Swiss Guard; and Msgr. Carlo Maria Polvani, head of the information and communications section of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

With about 30 people — including the judges and lawyers — present, the small Vatican courtroom was full. There was no jury because a Vatican trial is decided by a three-judge panel.

The Vatican television centre and Vatican newspaper photographer provided media with images from the opening minutes of the trial, which was not broadcast.

Although Vatican trials do not begin with defendants entering a plea of "guilty" or "not guilty," before the judges ruled to separate the two trials Sciarpelletti's defense lawyer said his client has declared himself innocent. The lawyer, Gianluca Benedetti, pointed out that, in fact, Sciarpelletti told investigators the envelope found in his desk came from Gabriele, which pointed the investigation in that direction. In addition, he said, the information in the envelope was not confidential and had already been made public.

In the indictment, Vatican investigators said Sciarpelletti changed his story during interrogation, claiming at one point that a monsignor gave him the envelope to give to Gabriele. Sciarpelletti, 48, faces a maximum of one year in prison.

When Benedetti told the court his client and Gabriele weren't close friends, but just acquaintances, Gabriele nodded his head.

Gabriele was arrested in May after Vatican police found papal correspondence and other items in his Vatican apartment; he faces up to four years in prison. Most of the documents dealt with allegations of corruption, abuse of power and a lack of financial transparency at the Vatican.

Giani told the court the papers collected from Gabriele's apartment filled 82 boxes. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters the boxes were different sizes and that most of the material in them was not pertinent to the case.

Gabriele, who did not make any declaration regarding his guilt or innocence during the opening session, had admitted to Vatican investigators that he took the material and leaked it to a journalist; he claimed he did so for the good of the Church and of the Pope. His previous lawyer told reporters he had sent a personal letter to Pope Benedict in July, seeking forgiveness.

Under Vatican City law, a confession is not absolute proof of guilty. The trial is designed to verify the information gathered during the investigation, including the interrogation of Gabriele.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - For the Vatican's criminal court, the trial of Paolo Gabriele and Claudio Sciarpelletti for their alleged part in leaking papal correspondence will be unusual and may lead the Vatican to invoke a never-used co-operation agreement with Italy.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - A Vatican magistrate has set a trial date for two men formally indicted in connection with the so-called "VatiLeaks" scandal.

The first day of the public trial, which will be held in a Vatican courtroom, is set for Sept. 29, the Vatican announced Sept. 17.

Paolo Gabriele, Pope Benedict XVI's former personal assistant, was indicted in mid-August on charges of aggravated theft; Claudio Sciarpelletti, a computer technician from the Vatican Secretariat of State, was indicted on minor charges of aiding Gabriele after he stole Vatican correspondence.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said a small pool of print reporters will be permitted to attend the proceedings, but still and television cameras will not be allowed access.

Gabriele and Sciarpelleti will face a panel of three Vatican judges, all of whom are laymen and professors at Italian universities. Vatican law, like Italian law, does not foresee the use of juries in criminal trials.

Gabriele, 46, faces a sentence of one to six years in prison. Under the terms of the Vatican's 1929 treaty with Italy, a person found guilty and sentenced to jail time by a Vatican court would serve his term in an Italian prison.

Lombardi had said in August that the charge against Sciarpelletti carried a "very light" sentence, which is unlikely to include jail time.

Gabriele was arrested May 23 after confidential letters and documents addressed to the Pope and other Vatican officials were found in his Vatican apartment. Many of the documents were the same as those featured in a January television program by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi and later published in a book by him. Most of the documents dealt with allegations of corruption, abuse of power and a lack of financial transparency at the Vatican.

A report released after a Vatican-led investigation of the affair said Gabriele told Vatican investigators he acted after seeing "evil and corruption everywhere in the Church." He said he had discussed with a spiritual advisor his concerns about the Church and what he was thinking when he took the documents.

Gabriele was questioned repeatedly over the two-month period he spent detained in a room in the Vatican police barracks. He was allowed to return, under house arrest, to his Vatican apartment with his wife and family July 21 and was to remain under house arrest until his trial ends.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - The father of the Pope's personal assistant, who is under arrest in connection with the so-called "VatiLeaks" scandal, described his son as an honest, faithful Catholic and said he hoped his son's "sacrifice" would help the church rid itself of corruption.

Paolo Gabriele, the Pope's personal assistant, is a person of "absolute honesty ... great generosity and moral integrity," who is deeply devoted to the church and the Pope, Andrea Gabriele said in a letter sent to the Italian television station Tgcom 24.

The letter was published on the broadcaster's website July 15.

Published in International

CORK, Ireland - The head of the Vatican's highest court described the spate of leaks of confidential Vatican documents as "most grave crimes" and warned that those responsible must be discovered and "appropriately sanctioned."

Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, said the confidentiality of Pope Benedict XVI's communications must be respected in order for the pope to carry out his work in service of the church.

"It is not a question of hiding anything but of respecting conscience," the U.S.-born cardinal told reporters following his address to the Fifth Fota International Liturgy Conference.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed his trust in the Vatican's secretary of state and defended him against a barrage of "unjust criticism" in the Italian media.

In a letter addressed to "dear brother" Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, 77, the Pope expressed his "profound appreciation for your discreet presence and wise counsel, which I have found particularly helpful over recent months."

The Vatican has had to face a number of challenges recently, including leaks of confidential correspondence to the Pope and the Secretariat of State; the arrest of the Pope's personal assistant in connection to the leaks; and the ouster of the Vatican bank's president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, for neglecting his duties amid worsening management problems.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI asked some of his closest advisers for guidance on how to restore trust and confidence in the Catholic church's leadership amid a scandal over leaks of confidential Vatican papers.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the Pope called two extraordinary meetings June 23 to "deepen his reflections" over the leaks and its consequences.

Paolo Gabriele, the Pope's personal butler, was arrested May 23 after confidential letters and documents addressed to the Pope and others within the Vatican administration were allegedly found in his Vatican apartment. Many of the documents were published in Italian media over the past several months and in a recently released best-selling book by an Italian journalist.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican Secretary of State blamed an ongoing scandal over leaked Vatican documents on unethical journalists and a spirit of hostility toward the Catholic Church.

"Many journalists play at imitating Dan Brown," said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in an interview with the Italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana. "They continue to invent fables or repeat legends."

Cardinal Bertone made his remarks as Vatican judges were investigating leaks to Italian journalists of dozens of documents, including letters to the pope and encrypted cables from Vatican embassies around the world, several of which hint at power struggles among officials of the Holy See.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - Paolo Gabriele, the papal assistant, has been accused of aggravated theft, a crime that under Vatican laws is punishable with a prison term of 1 to 6 years, a Vatican judge said.

Paolo Papanti-Pelletier, the judge, said under the terms of the Vatican's 1929 treaty with Italy, a person found guilty and sentenced to jail time by a Vatican court would serve his term in an Italian prison.

The judge also said that while Gabriele remains detained in a 12-foot-by-12-foot room in the Vatican police station, he was allowed to attend Mass June 3 in an unspecified "Vatican church." Two gendarmes accompanied Gabriele to the church, but he was not required to wear handcuffs, the judge said.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - Depending on what commentary one reads, recent leaks of internal Vatican memos and private letters to Pope Benedict XVI are the work either of praiseworthy whistle-blowers or criminal moles.

Gianluigi Nuzzi, the Italian journalist who published a book based on dozens of private Vatican documents, said his main source was part of a group of Vatican employees who wanted to "help" Pope Benedict XVI clean up the church by revealing evidence of corruption, infighting and power struggles.

But Archbishop Angelo Becciu, a top official in the Vatican Secretariat of State, said leaking the material was "behavior unjustifiable from every point of view."

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - From picked pockets to a 1998 double murder and suicide, the Vatican legal system has dealt with a vast array of crimes and misdemeanors over the decades.

Now it has begun a formal inquiry into the case of the pope's personal assistant who has been implicated in the media-blitzed "VatiLeaks" scandal. Paolo Gabriele, the pope's valet since 2006, was arrested May 23 by Vatican security for having unauthorized documents in his possession.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - The lawyers for Paolo Gabriele have petitioned Vatican magistrates for house arrest for their client, who is accused of illegally possessing stolen documents as part of the so-called "VatiLeaks" scandal.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said May 30 that the magistrates who have been holding Gabriele in the offices of the Vatican police were considering the formal request to allow him to return to his Vatican apartment with his wife and three children.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI voiced regret for the turmoil surrounding the recent publication of leaked Vatican documents, but thanked the vast majority of people who work at the Vatican for their dedication and fidelity.

Speaking at the end of his weekly general audience May 30, the pope said much of the media coverage of the leak of private letters and of the arrest May 23 of his personal assistant has been exaggerated and "completely gratuitous, and has gone far beyond the facts, offering an image of the Holy See that does not correspond to reality."

Published in Vatican

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican said it is committed to restoring a sense of trust and transparency as it seeks the truth behind leaks of letters written by Vatican officials to each other and Pope Benedict XVI.

Paolo Gabriele -- the pope's private assistant accused of having a cache of illicitly obtained Vatican documents -- was still under arrest and would face his first round of formal preliminary questioning by Vatican judges "later this week or early next week," Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said May 29.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY - Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi confirmed that Paolo Gabriele, the pope's private assistant, was arrested after private Vatican documents were found in his possession in connection to the so-called "VatiLeaks" scandal that began in January.
Father Lombardi said Gabriele was arrested the evening of May 23 by Vatican police after they found the illegally obtained documents in his home, which is on Vatican territory. He was still under arrest as May 26, the day the Vatican statement was issued. The dark-haired assistant can often be seen with the pope sitting in the front seat of the popemobile, next to the driver during papal general audiences on Wednesdays.

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