The Vancouver Sun
30 May 2012
By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press
Pope Benedict XVI broke his silence Wednesday over the leaked documents scandal that has convulsed the Vatican, saying he was saddened by the betrayal but grateful to those aides who work faithfully and in silence to help him do his job.
Benedict made his first direct comments on the scandal in off-the-cuff remarks at the end of his weekly general audience. He lashed out at some of the media reports about the scandal, saying the “exaggerated” and “gratuitous” rumours had offered a false image of the Holy See.
The Italian media have been in a frenzy ever since the pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested last week after Vatican investigators discovered papal documents in his Vatican City apartment. He remains in detention and has pledged to co-operate fully with the investigation.
Rumours have been flying in the press about possible cardinals implicated in the probe, pending resignations and details of the investigation that even Gabriele’s lawyers say they haven’t heard. The Vatican spokesman has spent much of his daily briefings in recent days shooting down the various reports.
The scandal represents one of the greatest breaches of trust and security for the Holy See in recent memory given that a significant number of documents from the pope’s own desk were leaked to an investigative journalist. The Vatican has denounced the leaks as criminal and immoral and has opened a three-pronged investigation to get to the bottom of who was responsible.
“The events of recent days about the Curia and my collaborators have brought sadness in my heart,” Benedict said at the end of his audience. But he added: “I want to renew my trust in and encouragement of my closest collaborators and all those who every day, with loyalty and a spirit of sacrifice and in silence, help me fulfil my ministry.”
Few people think Gabriele worked alone, and his promise to co-operate with the investigation has fueled speculation that other might be arrested soon.
The motivations for the leaks remain unclear: Some commentators say they appear designed to discredit Benedict’s No. 2, the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. Others say they’re aimed at undermining the Vatican’s efforts to become more financially transparent. Still others say they aim to show the 85-year-old Benedict’s weakness in running the church.
The scandal is playing out in a remarkable way, due in great part to the uniqueness of the institution in which it’s occurring and the players involved.
Gabriele is an employee of the Holy See, a citizen and resident of the Vatican city state. He is being held by Vatican police who have accused him of stealing the pope’s personal papers in a terrible breach of trust. His lawyers are Italian legal professionals, but they are communicating to the media via the Vatican spokesman — a conflict of interest that the Rev. Federico Lombardi has acknowledged but tried to downplay by saying he was merely offering a service to release information to the media.
Lombardi refers to Gabriele as “Paolo” and has repeatedly expressed sadness for what has happened. At the same time, though, the Vatican undersecretary of state, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, lashed out at what he called an unprecedented, “brutal” attack on the pope that the leaks represent.
In an interview Tuesday with the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Becciu said the stolen papers didn’t just concern matters of internal church governance but represented the thoughts of people who in writing to the pope believed they were essentially speaking before God.
“It’s not just that the pope’s papers were stolen, but that people who turned to him as the vicar of Christ have had their consciences violated,” Becciu was quoted as saying.
The scandal broke in January when Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi revealed letters from a former top Vatican administrator who begged the pope not to transfer him for having exposed alleged corruption that cost the Holy See millions of euros (dollars) in higher contract prices. The prelate, Monsignor Carlo Maria Vigano, is now the Vatican’s U.S. ambassador.
The scandal widened over the following months with documents leaked to Italian journalists that laid bare power struggles inside the Vatican over its efforts to show greater financial transparency and comply with international norms to fight money laundering. There was even a leak of a memo claiming that Benedict would die this year.
The crisis reached a peak last weekend, when Nuzzi published an entire book based on a trove of new documentation, including personal correspondence to and from the pope and his private secretary, much of which paints Bertone in a negative light.
The Vatican has warned of legal action for those who stole, received and disseminated the documents. Nuzzi, who in 2009 published a book on leaked documents from the Vatican bank, has justified the publication as an act of transparency and says there’s not a word against the pope or the church in the book.
The Daily Beast
May 30, 2012 7:34 AM EDT
Barbie Latza Nadeau
The Vatican is in full damage-control mode one week after the pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested for stealing the pope’s personal papers and leaking them to an Italian journalist. Tales of finger-pointing cardinals lobbing wild accusations against each other have made the hallowed Holy See look more like a nest of vipers. If you read the Italian press, one can’t help but visualize angry prelates in billowing cassocks shaking their fists as they accuse each other of being the “mastermind” behind the butler’s thievery. One Italian paper even suggested that an unnamed laywoman had secretly ordered the butler to do it. But the Vatican, of course, denies it all.
Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, has insisted that “no woman” and “no cardinals” are under investigation. The butler is accused alone, he says, and he alone will face the Vatican’s secretive tribunal. Each missive from the Holy See is scripted, right down to today’s editorial in the Vatican’s official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. In a less-than-spontaneous interview with Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the Vatican undersecretary of State, the newspaper addressed the scandal for the first time with an article called, simply, “The Papers Stolen From the Pope.”
Becciu told the paper that the butler’s deeds were not only against the pontiff. They were an act against God. “The pope was not merely robbed of letters. Violence has been done to the consciences of those who turn to him as Vicar of Christ, an assault has been made on the ministry of the Successor of the Apostle Peter. In many of the documents published we find ourselves in a context we presume to be of total trust. When a Catholic speaks to the Roman Pontiff, he is duty bound to open himself as if he were before God, partly because he feels that he is guaranteed absolute confidentiality.”
Gabriele, who has been held in custody in a “secure room” inside the Vatican’s fortified walls since last Thursday, has yet to be formally questioned, Lombardi said, even though he has been charged with “aggravated theft.” He has met with his lawyers, Carlo Fusco and Cristiana Arru, who were mandated by the Vatican to defend him. Lombardi says their first meeting, was “broad,” “fruitful,” and “very positive”—implying that it was also not exactly private. Gabriele faces 30 years if convicted of aggravated theft. If eventually convicted, the Vatican would need Gabriele to serve his sentence somewhere other than the tiny city state, which has no prison. His trial will very likely be closed to the public, but Lombardi did indicate that the Holy See was considering asking the Italian state for assistance if investigations lead to suspects outside the Holy See’s jurisdiction.
In particular, they have indicated that the publication of the documents by Gianluigi Nuzzi in his book His Holiness is a “criminal act. ”But because Nuzzi is an Italian citizen, he is outside the Vatican’s criminal-justice jurisdiction. Nuzzi refuses to name the sources for his book, and will not confirm or deny if he ever met the butler. “This sounds like the plot of the Walt Disney movie Aristocats,” he told The Daily Beast. “Except it’s not very funny.”
Gabriele, who has been held in custody in a “secure room” inside the Vatican’s fortified walls since last Thursday, has yet to be formally questioned.
At a press conference at the Foreign Press Association in Rome last week, Nuzzi said he hadn’t been questioned in the matter by any legal entity yet, but he welcomed the idea of collaboration between the Vatican and Italian authorities. “It would be unprecedented cooperation on the part of the Vatican,” he said.
Hints of new arrests surface daily in the Italian press, but so far Gabriele is the only known suspect. Though it is no secret that the Vatican would likely never admit if a high-ranking cardinal was actually implicated in the VatiLeaks scandal, or if the pope himself somehow knew what was going on. Just the same, Vaticanists will be eyeing high-level transfers to hard-luck posts, which can be perceived as a disciplinary measure. “The pope is treating this as a test, not a tragedy,” Lombardi told reporters at a VatiLeaks briefing on Tuesday. “The pope is hurt because Gabriele was close to him, someone he knew well, loved, and respected.”
Gabriele’s voice has been silenced—and for now, so have the leaks—but everyone watching this mystery unfold in Rome is waiting for the next twist in this bizarre case of the pope, his butler, and the Vatican’s spilled secrets.