Vatican police arrested Friday a man — reportedly the pope’s butler — on allegations of having leaked confidential documents and letters from the pontiff’s private study to newspapers.
The man was caught in possession of secret documents, the Vatican said, but it would not confirm the suspect’s identity, age, or when he had been arrested.
But informed sources said the man was Paolo Gabriele, 46, who had been working as a butler in the papal apartments since 2006. One source said the pope was “saddened and shocked” by this “painful case.”
“The inquiry carried out by Vatican police… allowed them to identify someone in possession of confidential documents. This person is currently being questioned,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told journalists.
Il Foglio newspaper and ANSA news agency named the detained man as Gabriele, a member of the small team which works daily in Pope Benedict XVI’s apartments.
The Italian daily said he is likely to be used by the Vatican as “a handy scapegoat” for several others suspected of being involved in leaking documents, some of which ended up in a new book on the tiny state published a week ago.
Gianluigi Nuzzi’s “His Holiness” reproduces dozens of top secret and private letters and faxes which were smuggled out by whistle-blowers tired of the corruption and unhealthy bitterness in the Vatican.
The number of people who have access to the pope’s private study is very limited, and includes his butler, four nuns and Benedict’s two secretaries, Georg Gaenswein and Alfred Xuereb.
Last month, the pope set up a special commission of cardinals to probe the leaks, which began in January and have seen private documents splashed in the Italian media — to the embarrassment and rage of the Holy See.
Among papers leaked to Italy’s press are some that have dealt with allegations of corruption within the Vatican.
They have mainly centred on the activities of the Vatican bank and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
The arrest came a day after the head of the Vatican Bank was ousted for failing to clean up the image of an institution that has come to symbolise the opacity and scandal gripping the Holy See’s administration.
Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was thrown out by the bank’s board for failing to do his job — but had also recently been suspected of being one of those behind the leaks.
Gotti Tedeschi, an expert on financial ethics, was put in charge of the bank — also known as the Institute for Religious Works (IOR) — in 2009, in an effort on the part of the Vatican to rid the institution of scandal.
Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s experts on anti-money laundering, is due to rule at the beginning of July on the whether the Holy See has managed to clean up its act and meet international monetary standards.
But the former head of Spanish bank Santander’s Italian operations tasked with bringing transparency to the bank came under suspicion in 2010 when he was investigated as part of an inquiry by magistrates into money-laundering.
Gotti Tedeschi, 67, was accused of violating laws set up in 2007 that tightened rules on disclosure of financial operations to the Italian central bank in a bid to stamp out money laundering.