Anatomy of Vatican scandal: How the butler did it

By Nicole Winfield

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Oct. 5 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Once home in the Vatican City apartment he shared with his wife and three children, Gabriele would file the papers away, "hidden" — police would later say — in between hundreds of thousands of pages of Internet research on Freemasonry, secret service units, Christianity, Buddhism and yoga. He filled a floor-to-ceiling armoire with the documentation in the study near his children's' PlayStation. A dining room cabinet held the rest.

"'See how much I like to read and study,'" Vatican police officer Stefano De Santis quoted Gabriele as telling the four officers who searched his home May 23, the day Gabriele was taken into police custody.

In all, it took 82 moving boxes to cart out all the documents they found, though police said only about 1,000 pages were pertinent to the investigation. Police and Gaenswein have said that — contrary to the butler's claims — they also contained original documents, obvious because of the seals, stamps and internal processing codes used in the Vatican.

Some bore the pope's own handwriting, including with the word "destroy" written at the top in German, police told the court.

It was Gaenswein who found the "gotcha" documents that pointed him to the culprit: three letters reproduced in Nuzzi's book that he said had never left his office.

Other documents had come from other Vatican congregations, so they could have been leaked at any point along the internal mail chain. These three, though, were addressed to Gaenswein: one from Italian TV host Bruno Vespa with a check for €10,000 and a request for a private papal audience; another from a Milan banker also containing a check; and an email from the Vatican spokesman that Gaenswein had printed out.

"These three didn't leave the room," Gaenswein testified. "This was the moment I started to have doubts."

He convened a meeting of the tiny papal family on May 21, a day after Nuzzi's book came out: Gabriele, Xuereb, the four consecrated women who tend to the papal household, and Birgit Wansing, who transcribes the pope's tiny handwriting. Cristina Cernetti, one of the women, testified she knew it was Gabriele because she could "exclude everyone else" in the papal family.

Gabriele denied he was the leaker that day. Two days later, Gaenswein again convened the papal family to tell Gabriele he was suspended. A few hours later, he was in a Vatican jail cell.

Gabriele has denied to prosecutors taking any originals, insisting he only made copies. And he has denied having ever seen a nugget believed to be gold and a check for $100,000 made out to the pope that police said were found in his apartment. In their testimony, police were unable to say where exactly in his study they found the items.

Nuzzi has all but confirmed Gabriele was his main source, sending him a good luck Tweet at the start of the trial and telling The Associated Press on the eve of the first hearing that he hoped the testimony would "unveil the motives and convictions that compelled Paolo Gabriele to bring to light documents and events described in the book."

The handoff of documents from Gabriele to Nuzzi was something out of Hollywood.

Nuzzi wrote that he first met with his source, code-named Maria in the book, in January 2012. The first meeting was a test of whether Nuzzi could be trusted. Another meeting began with a long drive around Rome to ensure they weren't being followed. Finally, there was a nighttime encounter in an unfurnished apartment, with a single chair in the living room where his source was sitting — in which "Maria" began spilling secrets.

In all, he said, the security precautions were more excessive than those used by Mafia turncoats he has interviewed. In one meeting, Maria turned up empty handed. Nuzzi recounted that his source then took off his jacket and turned around: There were 13 pages taped to his back.

Gabriele made copies of the documentation he gave to Nuzzi and gave them, in a box with the papal seal on it, to his confessor between February and March, court records show. The priest, identified by Gabriele only as Padre Giovanni, told prosecutors he burned the documentation soon after, knowing that it had been acquired illicitly.

Gabriele said he had made the copies because he knew he would eventually have to pay for what he had done, and wanted first to absolve himself spiritually.

"When the situation degenerated, I soon realized that I would need to face justice in some way," Gabriele testified.

Gabriele faces four years in prison if convicted, though a papal pardon is widely expected.

The next step plays out Saturday.

Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield

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