Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, a canon lawyer and member of the Vatican’s Supreme Court, is convinced that Pope Benedict XVI will pardon his former valet, Paolo Gabriele.
Gabriele, who is currently being tried in a Vatican court for the theft of confidential documents from the papal apartments, is to take the witness stand tomorrow.
In an interview with La Repubblica Sept. 30, the Curial cardinal, asked if Gabriele will be jailed or pardoned, stressed that a pardon “is a personal prerogative of the Holy Father” and one that only he, in good conscience, can decide.
He added: “According to my studies of criminal procedure applied to the Church, I feel I can say that, with a full confession of honest remorse and the absolute certainty that the crime cannot be committed again, popes have always issued, in favor of the condemned, measures dictated by the mercy that is the essence of the Church, which is always close to her children, even those found guilty.”
Cardinal De Paolis recalled that Blessed Pope John Paul II forgave Ali Agca in 1981 on regaining consciousness after Agca tried to assassinate him on St. Peter's Square. He stressed “this is not the first time that the Church has had to deal with close, sensitive matters, serious problems, personal tragedies." But he added that with prayer and the intercession of Divine Providence, “everything can be resolved.”
Gabriele has insisted he acted for the good of the Catholic Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and that he had a mission to expose “evil and corruption”. This has led many to wonder if he acted alone or on behalf of some senior Holy See figure.
But Cardinal De Paolis said in the interview that he believes Gabriele was acting alone, with Claudio Sciarpelletti, a computer technician, taking a “secondary role.” He said the judges “will determine this on the basis of confessions, testimonies and facts,” adding that he personally believes “there will be no surprises. Everything will be resolved.”
The Italian prelate criticised the “many assumptions” being made by those “who really don’t know what happened” and are unable “to distinguish the reality of facts from fantasy.” He added that it will be a “fair and timely trial, respectful of the rights of both the defense and the prosecution” and consistent with the “spirit of justice administered in the Vatican, whose main aim throughout the trial is to arrive, yes, at the truth, but also and above all, at the redemption of the presumed offender.”
Cardinal De Paolis is a close and trusted associate of the Holy Father. He was appointed as a member of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church's highest court, in 2010, and also serves as a member of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, the Vatican dicastery whose task is to interpret the laws of the Church.
From 2008-2011, he served as president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See - an office of the Roman Curia that oversees all the offices of the Holy See that manage finances. Since 2010, he has headed the delegation looking into reform of the Legionaries of Christ after criminal behaviour of its late founder, Fr. Marciel Maciel, became public.
The trial of Paolo Gabriele could be concluded by the end of this week.
The Vatican's Sept. 29th statement on the trial, which began on Saturday.
"Made public this morning was the list of witnesses to be called in the trials against Paolo Gabriele and Claudio Sciarpelletti who are accused, respectively, of aggravated theft and complicity.
The witnesses in the criminal trial against Claudio Sciarpelletti are: Msgr. Carlo Maria Polvani, William Kloter, Gianluca Gauzzi Broccoletti and Domenico Giani.
The witnesses in the criminal trial against Paolo Gabriele are: Cristina Cernetti, Giuseppe Pesce, Msgr. Georg Gaenswein, Costanzo Alessandrini, Luca Cinitia, Stefano De Santis, Silvano Carli and Luca Bassetti.
Also made public today was the response to a question raised during a briefing with journalists on 27 September, to the effect that the trial will take place without a "reporting magistrate". In a criminal trial, unlike a civil trial, normally there is no report into the circumstances of the case. The documents published on 13 August when the accused were sent for trial, and the earlier indictment of the promoter of justice, already describe the case in detail."