1. ITV Report

Ex-papal butler sentenced to 18 months under house arrest

Pope Benedict's former butler Gabriele listens to the court at the Vatican Photo: Osservatore Romano / Reuters

A Vatican court convicted Pope Benedict's former butler of stealing sensitive documents and sentenced him to 18 months detention, at the end of one of the most sensational trials in the recent history of the Holy See.

A Vatican spokesman said the pope, who reigns as a supreme monarch in the world's smallest city state, would "most likely" pardon Paolo Gabriele.

Pope Benedict XVI waves at the end of mass during his pastoral visit in Loreto Credit: Max Rossi / Reuters

Until such time, he will serve his sentence under house arrest in his Vatican apartment and not go to an Italian jail as is foreseen by bilateral agreements due to the Vatican's lack of any such facility, his lawyer Cristiana Arru told Reuters.

She said the house arrest provision had been approved by the Vatican's promoter of justice, or prosecutor, after the verdict.

The ex-butler will serve his sentence under house arrest in his Vatican apartment Credit: Max Rossi / Reuters

Gabriele, wearing a grey suit, remained impassive as the court delivered its verdict after two hours of closed-door deliberations that followed closing arguments by the prosecution and defence. He had admitted being the source of leaks of highly sensitive papers, including letters to the pope that alleged corruption in the Vatican's business dealings and defended his actions in a final appeal before the court retired.

What I feel most strongly inside myself is the conviction that I acted exclusively out of love, I would say a visceral love, for the Church of Christ and its visible representative. "If I have to repeat it, I am not a thief."

– Paolo Gabriele

The prosecution had asked for a three-year sentence while the defence asked the court to reduce the charges from aggravated theft to misappropriation, and for him to be freed.

The head of the three-judge panel, wearing a black robe with gold tassels, read the verdict with the opening words:

In the name of Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, gloriously reigning, the court, having invoked the Holy Trinity, has reached the following sentence."

The court also ordered Gabriele to pay the cost of the trial out of his own pocket but a Vatican spokesman was unable to quantify it.