Pope visits jailed butler to grant pre-Christmas pardon
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict made a surprise pre-Christmas visit to the jail holding his former butler on Saturday and pardoned him for stealing and leaking documents that alleged corruption in the Vatican.
The pope and Paolo Gabriele spent about 15 minutes together before Gabriele was freed and allowed to return to his wife and children in their Vatican apartment, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.
"What they said to each other will remain a secret between them ... he knows he made a mistake," Gabriele's lawyer Cristiana Arru, who was in the apartment when he returned home, told Reuters.
Gabriele was convicted of aggravated theft on October 6 in a case that shone unwelcome publicity on the Vatican. He had been serving an 18-month sentence in a jail cell in the city state's police headquarters.
Lombardi called the pope's action "a paternal gesture towards a person with whom the pope shared his daily life for several years ... this is a happy ending in this Christmas season to this sad and painful episode."
Both Lombardi and Arru described the encounter as "intense" because it was the first time the two had seen each other since last May, when Gabriele was arrested after Vatican police found many documents in his possession that had been stolen from the pope's office.
The pope also pardoned a Vatican computer expert who had received a suspended sentence in a separate trial.
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