Walls closing in on Pope’s former butler

VATICAN CITY — A Vatican court today heard how Pope Benedict’s former butler, who has been jailed for stealing papal documents, refused to allow technicians to check his computer for six years before his arrest.

The detail emerged at the first hearing of the trial of Claudio Sciarpelletti, a computer expert who is charged with aiding and abetting former butler Paolo Gabriele.

Lawyers told the court Gabriele refused to have his computer maintained or updated by technicians.

Gabriele was convicted of aggravated theft at a separate trial last month and sentenced to 18 months in jail for stealing sensitive papal documents and leaking them to the media. He kept some confidential information on his computer.

Gabriele, one of the pope’s closest household assistants, admitted leaking the documents in what he said was an attempt to help disclose corruption and “evil” in the headquarters of the 1.2 billion-member faith.

The leaks unleashed one of the biggest crises of Pope Benedict’s papacy, embarrassing the Vatican as it struggled to overcome a string of child sex abuse scandals involving clerics, and mismanagement at its bank.

Vatican officials say Sciarpelletti’s role was marginal and expect the trial, in the same small court room, to be speedier than that of the butler, which lasted only four sessions. (Reuters)

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