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Trial of pope's butler: Journalists admitted, but secret evidence not

Paolo Gabriele, the once-trusted valet who used to dress the 85-year-old German pontiff, is charged under Vatican law with the 'aggravated theft' of confidential papers.

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In this photo released by the Vatican paper L'Osservatore Romano, the pope's butler, Paolo Gabriele, sits in the wood-trimmed courtroom of the Vatican tribunal, at the Vatican, Saturday. The Vatican opened the public trial Saturday of Mr. Gabriele for allegedly stealing and leaking papal correspondence to a journalist, the most embarrassing scandal of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy.

L'Osservatore Romano/AP

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Pope Benedict XVI’s personal butler will be cross-examined by a Vatican court on Tuesday in a closely-watched trial in which he is accused of stealing highly sensitive documents, some of them from the desk of the pope himself.

The trial opened on Saturday in a wood-paneled courtroom in a Vatican tribunal within the walls of the tiny city-state. The case inevitably has garnered headlines given that it revolves around the great mystery cliche: "Did the butler do it?" Or rather, "was it only the butler who did it?"

The documents at the heart of the case have lifted the lid on corruption at the highest levels of the Roman Catholic Church, which is still battered by revelations of clerical coverups of child sexual abuse. With this case, the Vatican is trying to showcase greater transparency, allowing a pool of journalists to cover each meeting. Experts, however, say that the latest saga does not help the Vatican's already damaged image.

“It is certainly embarrassing for the Vatican, but I’m not sure it will resonate that much among ordinary Catholics around the world,” says Alessandro Speciale, Vatican correspondent for Religion News Service. “The church was already badly tarnished by the pedophile sex abuse scandals. That was much more serious.”

Paolo Gabriele, the once-trusted valet who used to dress the 85-year-old German pontiff and travel with him in his Popemobile, is charged under Vatican law with the “aggravated theft” of confidential papers from the pope’s private apartments and the Vatican secretariat of state.

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