The first day of official proceedings in the case against Paolo Gabriele, former butler of Pope Benedict XVI, got underway Saturday in a fairly non-nondescript courtroom in Piazza San Marta.
NBC News reports that Gabriele faces charges of taking and leaking confidential documents from the pope’s residence and leaking them to the media. If found guilty, he faces up to four years in prison. The official charge is “aggravated theft.” If convicted, he will serve his time in the Italian prison system as the Vatican City city state has no prison of its own.
The first hearing lasted two hours but was not without incident. Gabriele’s lawyers had argued that evidence gathered by a commission of Cardinals on behalf of the pope should be admitted to the case, but a judge ruled that evidence inadmissible, the BBC reported, and the trial will only consider evidence gathered by Vatican police.
Gabriele was a trusted member of the pope’s entourage, and literally held the keys to the papal apartments. He has admitted to taking the documents, but maintains he did the right thing. He was caught with documents and gifts for the pope in his apartment, but he claimed he was an agent of the Holy Spirit, seeking to expose corruption in the Church.
Vatican City, which is surrounded by the city of Rome, Italy, is the headquarters of the Catholic Church and seat of spiritual leader Pope Benedict XVI. While it has a spiritual role, it also has a worldly one as a sovereign nation of which the pope is ruler. Vatican City has been officially recognized as a nation since a 1929 agreement with Italy.