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Trial of Pope's ex-butler begins

Pope Benedict's former butler Paolo Gabriele (right) at the start of his trial at the Vatican. Credit: Osservatore Romano / Reuters

The trial of the Pope's former butler Paolo Gabriele, who allegedly stole the pontiff's personal papers and leaked them to the media, is under way in the Vatican.

He faces up to four years in prison if he is found guilty of charges of aggravated theft.

Pope's butler to stand trial

Paolo Gabriele (bottom left) will stand trial, the Vatican announced. Credit: Reuters

The former butler to Pope Benedict XVI will stand trial for stealing and leaking secret Vatican documents.

46-year-old father of three Paolo Gabriele was arrested on May 23 in connection with an investigation into leaks of confidential information, dubbed "Vatileaks."

The documents he leaked pointed to corruption and power struggles within the higher echelons of the Catholic Church. The Vatican has said the investigation into leaks will "continue to identify other individuals who appear to be involved."

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Vatican charges Pope's butler over possession of secret documents

The Pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele (bottom L) arrives with Pope Benedict XVI (R) at St. Peter's Square earlier this year. Credit: REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Vatican magistrates have formally charged Pope Benedict's butler with illegal possession of secret documents and said a wider investigation would take place to see if he had any accomplices who helped him leak them.

A statement referred to Paolo Gabriele, 46, who was Benedict's butler until he was arrested on Wednesday, as "the defendant".

It said a preliminary investigation had been upgraded to a "formal investigation," meaning he had been formally charged.