By Junno Arocho
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 2, 2012 (Zenit.org).- In the second day of his trial, Paolo Gabriele took the stand explaining his reasons for stealing private documents belonging to Pope Benedict XVI. Gabriele is accused of aggravated theft, while former computer expert for the Secretary of State, Claudio Sciarpelletti, faces charges for aiding and abetting in a separate trial on a later date.
Saying his actions were out of concern for the Vatican and the Holy Father, Gabriele stated that he acted of his own accord when he stole and eventually leaked the documents to a local journalist. When asked by his lawyer, Cristiana Arru, whether he ever addressed his worries to the Holy Father, Gabriele stated that though he never showed any of the purloined documents to the Pope, he did attempt to bring some of his concerns to light through conversation.
The former papal butler also said that he confided in several people regarding his concerns about the Vatican prior to the theft. Among those named were Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, Ingrid Stampa, a longtime assistant to Pope Benedict, Cardinal Paolo Sardi, a former official in the Secretary of State, and Bishop Francesco Cavina of Carpi, who also worked in the office of the Secretary of State.
Cristina Cernetti, a laywoman working in the papal household also testified today, as well as the Holy Father’s personal secretary, Msgr. Georg Gänswein. The Pope’s secretary, who shared an office with Gabriele, stated that he suspected the defendant had stolen the documents in mid-May, saying that he knew that several documents that were published had never left his office.
Treatment by Vatican Gendarmerie Questioned
Arru also questioned Gabriele on his treatment while being detained for 60 days in the Vatican. Gabriele confirmed that during the first 15 days, he was held in a small room and had the lights left on 24 hours a day. In response to Gabriele’s statement, the Corps of Gendarmerie, the Vatican City police force, issued a communique confirming that while the lights were left on for 24 hours a day, it was done to prevent possible acts of self-harm by Gabriele.
The Gendarmerie stated that Gabriele was held in a tiny cell for a brief period because the other cells were going through renovation, and that the defendant was relocated to an appropriate cell once the renovation was complete.
The communique also stated that Gabriele “was in constant contact, and particularly in the first few days, with chaplains, was able to attend the Holy Mass with his family, and had also benefited from discussions at any time, in accordance with the authorization of the Judicial Authority, with his family and meetings with his lawyers, all with the utmost respect for the individual.”
Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, later told journalists that Vatican prosecutor, Judge Nicola Picardi, has officially opened an investigation into Gabriele’s treatment during his detainment.