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Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Vatican City,  (VIS) - Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. today addressed the Synodal assembly on the subject of the recent decision to send a delegation of Synod Fathers to Damascus, Syria.

"Speaking before this assembly last Tuesday", he said, "I announced the Holy Father's decision to send a delegation to Damascus to express his solidarity and that of the Synod with the people of Syria who, unfortunately, have for some time been experiencing a tragic situation of suffering. The intention was also to express our spiritual closeness to our Christian brothers and sisters in that country, and to encourage those committed to seeking a solution respectful of the rights and duties of all.

"The initiative raised wide interest and received a positive welcome, not only in Rome and Syria, but also at the international level.

"First of all I wish to tell you that we have continued to study the issue and to prepare the visit, despite the tragic episodes that have taken place in the region over recent days.

"As is well known, there is a strong desire to express the closeness of the Holy See and the universal Church by means of a delegation, which will travel to Damascus at the time and in the manner which will be announced after they have been defined in the light of the contacts and preparations currently under way. Given the gravity of the situation, the visit will be postponed, probably until after the conclusion of the Synod, and the composition of the delegation will be modified, also due to other commitments on the part of its members.

"The contribution of the personal offerings of the Synod Fathers, and those of the Holy See, will be sent to Syria as a gesture of fraternal solidarity with the entire population.

"Above all we continue in our commitment to prayer, which is always heard by the Lord and which I invite you to join with renewed confidence".


Vatican City,  (VIS) - Made public today was the full text of the sentence issued by the Tribunal of Vatican City State on 6 October, in which Paolo Gabriele was declared guilty of aggravated theft.

On 6 October Paolo Gabriele had been sentenced to imprisonment for a period of three years although, in view of his "lack of a criminal record, his record of service in the period prior to the facts in question, the subjective (though mistaken) belief identified by the accused as the motive for his conduct, as well as his own statement of his awareness of having betrayed the trust of the Holy Father, the Tribunal reduced the sentence to imprisonment for one (1) year and six (6) months, and ordered the guilty party to defray the costs of the trial".

In a briefing held this morning Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. explained some aspects of the sentence. He began by noting that it focused on the offence of stealing documents, and in particular the originals of documents, and took no account of other objects such as a nugget of gold, a cheque in the Holy Father's name and a sixteenth-century copy of "The Aeneid", because there were doubts about the way in which the search during which they were found had been carried out, and Gabriele's guilt was not proven.

Fr. Lombardi also explained that a psychiatric examination had excluded the possibility that the accused might have had some mental condition which had made him unaware of his responsibility for his actions. The Tribunal had also, he said, been careful to define the juridical terms of the offence of theft; i.e., the removal and appropriation of an object without the consent of its owner with the intent of obtaining some benefit. Thus the offence involved was theft and not embezzlement, although the sentence notes that the benefit Gabriele sought to gain was not economic in nature, but intellectual and moral.

Another question that arose was whether Gabriele had acted at the "suggestion" of a third party; a term that had been interpreted to include complicity or influence. The accused himself affirmed that the word did not mean collaboration with other people, but the influence of the surrounding environment which had led him to the conviction that he was acting for the good of the Holy Father and the Church.

The Holy See Press Office Director noted that the aggravating circumstances lay in the fact that the theft had involved abuse of trust and the publication of reserved documents, while the attenuating circumstances were the absence of a criminal record and Gabriele's own moral conviction.

On the subject of the punishment, Fr. Lombardi pointed out that the Tribunal had based its sentence on the penalties established for such offences in the Criminal Code. The promoter of justice had requested that Gabriele be given a lifetime ban on holding public office but, as the final sentence was of eighteen months, the Penal Code contains no provision for such a measure and the ban on public office was thus of limited duration. Nonetheless, in view of the gravity of the offence, it had been decided not to suspend the sentence conditionally.

Finally the director of the Holy See Press Office announced that Paolo Gabriele currently remains under house arrest, because until the publication of the full text of the sentence the promoter of justice before the Tribunal of Vatican City State, Giovanni Giacobbe, was unable to file an appeal. If he did not now do so within the set deadline the sentence would be put into effect. In this case the accused would have to serve his term in prison inside the Vatican, because there was no relevant convention with the Italian State. The possibility remains, however, that the Holy Father will pardon Gabriele although, since it would be a personal decision, it is not clear if and when he will do so.

The full text of the sentence is available (in Italian) here.


Vatican City,  (VIS) - Giuseppe Dalla Torre, president of the Tribunal of Vatican City State, has issued a decree ruling that the first hearing in the trial of Claudio Sciarpelletti is to take place at 9 a.m. on 5 November. Sciarpelletti, who is accused of complicity, was sent for trial by the examining magistrate on 13 August, but his trial was separated from that of Paolo Gabriele by a ruling issued during the course of the court hearing of 29 September.

The hearing will take place in the audience hall of the Tribunal of Vatican City State, and the judicial bench will be composed of Giuseppe Dalla Torre, president, and Paolo Papanti-Pelletier and Venerando Marano, judges.

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