During the trial, Gabriele testified that he loved the pope "as a son loves his father" and said he never meant to hurt the pontiff or the church. A photograph taken during the meeting Saturday — the first between Benedict and his once trusted butler since his arrest — showed Gabriele dressed in his typical dark gray suit, smiling.
The publication of the leaked documents, first on Italian television then in Nuzzi's book "His Holiness: Pope Benedict XVI's Secret Papers" convulsed the Vatican all year, a devastating betrayal of the pope from within his papal family that exposed the unseemly side of the Catholic Church's governance.
The papal pardon had been widely expected before Christmas, and the jailhouse meeting Benedict used to personally deliver it recalled the image of Pope John Paul II visiting Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who shot him in 1981, while he served his sentence in an Italian prison.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the meeting was "intense" and "personal" and said that during it Benedict "communicated to him in person that he had accepted his request for pardon, commuting his sentence."
Lombardi said the Vatican hoped the Benedict's pardon and Gabriele's freedom would allow the Holy See to return to work "in an atmosphere of serenity."
None of the leaked documents threatened the papacy. Most were of interest only to Italians, as they concerned relations between Italy and the Vatican and a few local scandals and personalities. Their main aim appeared to be to discredit Benedict's trusted No. 2, the secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.