Pope Benedict's former butler, Paolo Gabriele (M)
Pope Benedict's former butler went on trial on Saturday for using his intimate access to the pope's desk to steal and leak explosive documents in what he said was an attempt to clean up corruption in the Vatican.
The 46-year-old Paolo Gabriele, who served the pope his meals and helped him dress, was being tried along with a Vatican computer expert in the city state's little-used tribunal, a small, wood-paneled room with a papal emblem on its ceiling, reports Reuters.
Gabriele was arrested in May after police found confidential documents in his apartment inside the Vatican, throwing a global media spotlight on an institution battling to defend its reputation from allegations of graft.
A three-judge panel will decide the fate of Gabriele, whom the pope used to call "Paoletto" (little Paul), now described in Vatican documents as "the defendant".
The self-styled whistle-blower, who says he was trying to expose graft at the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, is charged with aggravated theft for stealing and leaking the pontiff's personal papers, and could be jailed for four years.
Only eight journalists were allowed into the courtroom, and these were due to brief other reporters after the end of the first session, which was expected to last up to three hours.
According to an indictment last August, Gabriele told investigators he had acted because he saw "evil and corruption everywhere in the Church" and wanted to help root it out "because the pope was not sufficiently informed".