Lawyer for pope’s accused butler quits
VATICAN CITY (RNS) A lawyer for Pope Benedict XVI’s former butler announced Thursday (Aug. 30) that he was resigning over differences in defense strategy with his client.
The former butler, Paolo Gabriele, will stand trial in autumn on charges of stealing the pontiff’s private papers, in what the Vatican hopes will be the final act in the “Vatileaks” affair that has further damaged its image after the sexual abuse scandal.
Pope Benedict XVI’s personal assistant, Paolo Gabriele, seated in front, arrives with the pope in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in this 2007 file photo.
RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz
Carlo Fusco, an attorney with law firm Sciume & Associati and a childhood friend of Gabriele, said that he and his client disagreed on “how to handle the trial” but that they would remain friends. His replacement hasn’t been announced yet.
According to Fusco, the butler’s other lawyer, criminal attorney Cristiana Arru, also was “considering” whether to resign.
In July, Fusco revealed that Gabriele had written a personal letter to Benedict asking for his forgiveness. “I didn’t quit because of the letter,” he stressed.
In fact, during the investigation Fusco, a practicing Catholic and a prominent member of the Focolare movement, was careful not to openly confront the Vatican, even taking the unusual step of speaking to the press mostly through the Vatican press office.
While Gabriele has been charged with stealing the pope’s documents, Vatican judges and police are still investigating how they were leaked to the press.
In another fallout from the Vatileaks affair, the Holy See announced Thursday that it was dropping a lawsuit against a German satirical magazine that it said had “violated” Benedict’s image.
The cover of the July issue of the magazine Titanic sported an image the 85-year old pontiff with a yellow stain on his robe. The headline read: “The source of the leak has been found.”
A German court granted the Vatican a temporary injunction barring Titanic from distributing its cover image in print or online, but according to the German Bishops Conference, the Holy See dropped the lawsuit before the trial was scheduled to open on Friday.
In a statement, the Vatican stressed that it would continue to examine legal measures to “effectively counter attacks on the dignity of the pope and the Catholic Church.”