Pope Benedict XVI's personal assistant Paolo Gabriele has been charged with theft amid suspicion that he leaked confidential papal documents to the press with the help of an accomplice.
Examining judge Piero Bonnet announced Aug. 13 that the papal aide would be tried in a Vatican City State court on charges of “aggravated theft,” Vatican Radio reported. If found guilty, he could face six years in jail.
Claudio Sciarpelleti, a computer technician at the Vatican Secretariat of State, faces a lesser charge of “aiding and abetting” Gabriele.
In a 35-page report released Monday, Judge Bonnet said Gabriele initially denied involvement in the “Vatileaks” scandal, in which secret documents from the Pope and top Vatican officials have been provided to the media.
According to the judge, however, Gabriele later acknowledged providing confidential papers to an Italian journalist. Gabriele purportedly claimed inspiration from God, seeing a “media shock” as a way to put the Church “back onto the right track.”
The papal assistant reportedly denied accepting money for the information, saying instead that he was trying to help Pope Benedict understand problems with corruption in the Church.
Currently under house arrest, Gabriele will not be tried until after Sept. 20 when the Vatican's Supreme Tribunal reconvenes. His alleged accomplice Sciarpelleti has been suspended from his position, but remains an employee at the Secretariat of State.
A three-judge panel will try the defendants jointly, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters Aug. 13.
Meanwhile, Bonnet's report stressed that Vatican authorities will continue to investigate the document leaks.
During Monday's press conference, Fr. Lombardi reaffirmed the Pope's trust in the magistrates and the legal process. Pope Benedict has authority to intervene in the proceedings, and could choose to pardon the two defendants if they are convicted.