Insight: Papal butler’s journey from trusted servant to accused Judas
Just after dawn on Wednesday, May 23, Paolo Gabriele said goodbye to his wife, passed by the bedrooms of his three children and left to start another day in the service of the man Roman Catholics believe is the vicar of Christ on Earth.
By the end of the day, Pope Benedict’s butler would be branded a traitor and some, including an Italian cardinal, would compare him to the most famous betrayer in history – Judas Iscariot, the man who turned Jesus over to the Romans.
Dark haired and handsome, Gabriele, 46, left his simple home on the third floor of a 1930s Vatican apartment block named after the 7th century monk Saint Egidio.
With the St Ann’s Gate entrance, guarded by Swiss Guard in blue berets, to his back, he passed the Holy See’s central post office on Via Del Belvedere, turned left to climb a stone stairway named after Pope Pius X, and walked up a flight of covered steps to enter the small Renaissance-era Courtyard of Sixtus V.
Here he used a key held by fewer than 10 people to enter an elevator that leads directly to the pope’s private apartment on the third and top floor of the Apostolic Palace in the world’s smallest state. Even cardinals can’t use it.
Gabriele, said by those who know him to be a timid, reserved and shy man, is now at the centre of the worst crisis in Pope Benedict’s pontificate.