Pope grants pre-Christmas pardon to former butler

Pope Benedict XVI has pardoned his former butler, who was convicted of leaking sensitive documents that alleged corruption in the Holy See.

The Vatican said the Pope visited Paolo Gabriele in its jail this morning to tell him personally of the pardon. Gabriele was then released and has already returned to his family, it added.

Pope Benedict XVI has pardoned his former butler, Paolo Gabriele Credit: REUTERS/Max Rossi

Gabriele was convicted of aggravated theft on 6th October and was serving an 18-month sentence.

He was arrested in May after Vatican police said they had found documents stolen from the Pontiff's office. Gabriele then gave them to the media in what became known as "Vatileaks" scandal.

Pope Benedict also pardoned a second Vatican employee, Claudio Sciarpelletti, who was convicted of aiding and abetting Gabriele.