Pope's butler pleads innocent to theft charge

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict's onetime butler says he's innocent of a charge of aggravated theft of the pope's private correspondence, but admits that he photocopied the papers and regrets betraying the trust of the pontiff he loves like a father.

Paolo Gabriele (POW'-loh gah-bree-EHL'-eh) took the stand Tuesday in a Vatican courtroom to defend himself against accusations of his role in one of the most damaging scandals of Benedict's pontificate. Prosecutors say Gabriele stole the pope's letters and documents alleging power struggles and corruption inside the Vatican and leaked them to a journalist in an unprecedented papal security breach.

Gabriele faces four years in prison if he's found guilty, but most Vatican watchers expect he'll receive a papal pardon if he's convicted.

Prosecutors have said Gabriele confessed to leaking copies of the documents to an Italian journalist because he wanted to expose "evil and corruption" in the church. They quoted him as saying he felt inspired by the Holy Spirit "to bring the church back on the right track."

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APPHOTO VAT102: FILE -- In this photo taken Wednesday, May, 23, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI, flanked by his private secretary Georg Gaenswein, top left, and his butler Paolo Gabiele arrives at St.Peter's square at the Vatican for a general audience. Paolo Gabriele took the stand Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012, in a Vatican courtroom to defend himself against a charge of aggravated theft. He said he is innocent of charges of stealing the pope's private correspondence but acknowledged he feels guilty of betraying the trust of the pontiff, whom he said he loved like a father. In other testimony Tuesday, the pope's private secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, testified that he began having suspicions about Gabriele after he realized three documents that appeared in the journalist's book could only have come from the office he shared with Gabriele. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File) (23 May 2012)

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