The Vatican is hunting for the masterminds of leaks that have enraged the Holy See, with few believing the pope’s arrested butler was behind the scandal, Italian media reported on Sunday.
Vatican officials confirmed Saturday that Pope Benedict XVI’s personal butler Paolo Gabriele was arrested on suspicion of leaking confidential documents from the pontiff’s private study after secret papers were found in his home.
His arrest was greeted with disbelief as the 46-year-old Gabriele was well-liked throughout Vatican City and known for his devotion and loyalty to the pope.
The Italian press has been filled with speculation that the butler, one of a limited number of people who have access to the pope’s private quarters, was a pawn in a game of intrigue and struggle for power inside the Holy See.
“No one thinks the butler was capable of orchestrating the ‘Vatileaks’ by himself and so the focus is on a higher, ecclesiastical level,” wrote the Corriere della Sera under the headline “Vatican braces for new arrests.”
“Maybe someone set up the butler by placing the documents at his house or maybe he was executing orders from higher up. When you are loyal you are also obedient.”
Last month, the pope set up a special commission of cardinals to probe the leaks, which began in January and have seen a number of private documents splashed in the Italian media — to the embarrassment and anger of the Vatican.
The documents shed light on many Vatican secrets, including the Church’s tax problems, the funding of Catholic bodies, sex scandals and negotiations with hardline traditionalist rebels.
Gabriele’s arrest came hot on the heels of the sacking of Vatican Bank president Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, who has also been suspected of being behind the leaks.
Tedeschi was accused of failing to clean up the image of an institution that has come to symbolise the lack of transparency and the scandal gripping the Holy See’s administration.
“Vatican hunts for accomplices,” La Stampa newspaper said of the leaks. “Investigators are looking for confirmation, for evidence, for accomplices and a possible ‘higher level.'”
A friend of Gabriele, who has worked at the Vatican since 2006, told the paper he believed the butler was probably set up.
“From what I know of him, he either suddenly became a madman or he fell into a trap because someone important convinced him to safeguard the documents,” the friend, who also works at the Vatican, was quoted as saying on condition of anonymity.
“I spoke with Paolo on Monday night and he was saddened because a few hours earlier he learned that he was under investigation,” the friend said. “Since his arrest I have been constantly asking myself — if he had the documents and he knew that he was under suspicion, why didn’t he destroy them?”
La Repubblica said a woman could have been to blame, splashing across its front page the headline: “The butler speaks, the Vatican trembles, the chase for masterminds: There is a woman.”
“A woman is among the moles in the Vatican, a secular one who works for the Apostolic Palace” where the pope lives, it wrote, describing her as young married woman who also has a job outside the Vatican.
In March she accompanied Benedict XVI on his trip to Mexico and Cuba. She started working at the Vatican with John Paul II and was confirmed by Joseph Ratzinger, the current pontiff, the paper reported.