VATICAN CITY — The pope’s once-trusted butler went on trial Saturday for allegedly stealing papal documents and passing them off to a journalist in the worst security breach of the Vatican’s recent history — a case that embarrassed the Vatican and may shed some light on the discreet, internal workings of the papal household.
In its first hearing in the case, the three-judge Vatican tribunal threw out some evidence gathered during the investigation of butler Paolo Gabriele, who is charged with aggravated theft.
It also decided to separate Gabriele’s trial from that of his co-defendant, a computer expert charged with aiding and abetting the crime.
Gabriele is accused of taking the pope’s correspondences, photocopying the documents and handing them to Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, whose book “His Holiness: The secret papers of Pope Benedict XVI,” was published to great fanfare in May.
Prosecutors have said Gabriele confessed to taking the documents because he wanted to expose the “evil and corruption” in the church.
They quoted him as saying during an interrogation that he felt inspired by the Holy Spirit to inform the pope about the church’s problems and that a “shock, even a media one, would have been healthy to bring the church back on the right track.”
Nuzzi on Saturday wished Gabriele well, tweeting “Good Luck, courageous Paoletto, we’re with you.” He referred to Gabriele by the diminutive nickname used by the pope and other members of the papal household.