VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Vatican magistrates have formally indicted Pope Benedict XVI’s personal assistant, Paolo Gabriele, on charges of aggravated theft and have indicted a computer technician from the Vatican Secretariat of State on minor charges of aiding Gabriele after he stole Vatican correspondence.
The publication Aug. 13 of the decision of Piero Bonnet, the Vatican’s investigating judge, included for the first time the naming of a second suspect, Claudio Sciarpelleti, the secretariat of state employee.Vatican police found an envelope from Gabriele in Sciarpelleti’s desk and arrested him, according to the documents explaining Bonnet’s judgment. While the computer expert gave “contrasting versions of the facts” to investigators, in the end it was determined that there was enough evidence to bring him to trial on a charge of aiding and abetting Gabriele after the fact.
The Vatican magistrates did not set a date for the trial or trials, but Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said it would not be set before Sept. 20 because the Vatican court is in recess Aug. 14-Sept. 20.
Pope Benedict could have intervened at any time to stop the investigation and legal process and he still has the option of clearing the two laymen.
If the pope does not intervene, Gabriele and Sciarpelleti would go to trial before 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, who will turn 46 Aug. 19, faces a sentence of 1 to 6 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.
The papal assistant was arrested May 23 after confidential letters and documents addressed to the pope and other Vatican officials were found in his Vatican apartment, Bonnet’s report said. 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. Many of the documents dealt with allegations of corruption, abuse of power and a lack of financial transparency at the Vatican.