By Peter Mayer –
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has been left “hurt” by the arrest last week of his butler on charges of stealing papal documents, the pontiff’s spokesman said Monday.
The 85-year-old Benedict “is conscious of the seriousness of the situation,” but is drawing strength from “the faith which characterizes him,” Father Federico Lombardi said.
Lombardi also denied media reports that the Vatican had placed other people under investigation since Paolo Gabriele’s arrest on Friday.
Gabriele, 46, a Vatican citizen, was formally charged with theft, after several documents was discovered in the flat he shares with his wife and three children.
Several Italian newspapers reported at the weekend that an Italian cardinal and a woman working in the papal household were also being treated as suspects.
But Lombardi described the reports as “pure fantasy.”
He also said that Gabriele’s arrest was not linked to the dismissal Thursday of Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, president of the Vatican bank, which is officially known as the Institute for Religious Works.
Gotti Tedeschi was ousted by the board for, among other things, reportedly failing to explain how documents in his possession were leaked to the media.
“The developments are distinct,” Lombardi said.
Among the documents found in Gabriele’s flat were copies of letters sent to the pontiff that appeared in Italian newspapers in recent months, including several also contained in a book, “Santita” (Holiness), by investigative journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi that went on sale in the country last week.
In some of the leaked documents, senior clerics wrote to the pontiff to alert him of cases of alleged cronyism and corruption in Vatican contracts.
The documents also indicated the possible existence of a power struggle involving clerics opposed to the Vatican’s second highest official, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and those loyal to him.
A senior Vatican cardinal said in an interview published Monday that Holy See investigators are trying to determine whether Gabriele had acted alone or was part of a wider conspiracy.
“Let’s hope … that the arrest is an isolated case and that there are no other traitors plotting against the Vatican,” Cardinal Robert Sarah told the La Repubblica daily.
“Until (Vatican investigating) magistrates have shed complete light on this shocking event, no one can exclude scenarios such as conspiracies or organized plots,” said Sarah, one of the top African clerics at the Vatican.
A Guinean who heads the Holy See’s department responsible for overseeing missionary work and relief operations, Sarah said he and his fellow clerics were “astonished and deeply saddened,” by last week’s arrest.
Since there are no prison cells in the Vatican, Gabriele is being held in one of the three so-called secure rooms in the offices of the Vatican Gendarmerie, the 150-man strong police force inside the walled city-state.
In his book, Nuzzi, identified his main source only by the name “Maria,” describing him as a Vatican employee who after more than 20 years of service had decided to blow the whistle on Vatican “hypocrisy.”