Vatican says “Vatileaks” scandal is a brutal personal attack on Pope Benedict

May 29, 2012

(Pope Benedict XVI conducts the holy mass of Pentecost Sunday in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican May 27, 2012. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini )

The Vatican on Tuesday denounced the theft of secret papal documents as a “brutal” personal attack on Pope Benedict as a powerful group of cardinals hunted more culprits behind the biggest crisis of his pontificate.

With the crisis over leaks of sensitive documents deepening, the third most senior figure in the Vatican fired a bitter salvo in the Vatican’s official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

Vatican deputy secretary of state, Archbishop Angelo Becciu said in an interview that the publication of stolen documents in a recent book by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi was a “criminal” act.

It was the first time the paper has reported on the arrest of Benedict’s butler nearly a week ago and it reflected the anger in the Holy See over what is seen as a betrayal of Benedict.

The newspaper also said the butler, Paolo Gabriele, 46, had been in possession of “a large number” of the pope’s private documents, the first time the Holy See has come close to publicly quantifying how many documents Gabriele held.

“The act he (the pope) has been subjected to is brutal,” Becciu said. “Benedict XVI has seen the publication of papers stolen from his house.”

The scandal exploded last week when within a few days, the head of the Vatican’s own bank was abruptly dismissed, the butler was arrested and Nuzzi’s book was published alleging conspiracies among cardinals, the “princes of the Church”.

Gabriele was formally charged with aggravated theft on Saturday when a preliminary inquiry that began with his arrest was upgraded to a formal investigation.

The butler, who was one of the people closest to the pope and is still being held in a “safe room” in the Vatican’s police station, will face Vatican magistrates again later this week or next when formal hearings start.

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