Profile: Pope's Butler Paolo Gabriele

By David Willey
BBC News
May 26, 2012

Paolo Gabriele (bottom left) sees more of the Pope on a daily basis than most cardinals

You may have seen pictures of Paolo Gabriele, the 46-year-old, impeccably dressed black-suited Italian arrested on suspicion of stealing secret Vatican correspondence, without recognising who he is.

He is the Pope's closest private servant - his valet or, if you prefer a conventional English title, his butler.

He lives in the Pope's shadow and has always been at hand to smooth the pontiff's path through his multiple official duties - in public and in private.

Each morning he helps Pope Benedict to dress, and attends his early morning private mass. He usually serves the Pope's meals, and sometimes is invited to sit at the Pope's table.

Mr Gabriele - known to his intimates as Paoletto - usually sits in the front of the Popemobile, opening the door when the pope steps inside. Or he hands the pontiff his red cloak, when the weather gets chilly.

Although he holds no ecclesiastical qualifications, he perhaps sees more of Pope Benedict in private every day than most of the cardinals and bishops who work inside the Vatican.

Private community

The papal household, on the top floor of the imposing Apostolic Palace - the building next to Saint Peter's Basilica - is a small community that has little normal contact with the outside world.

The Pope's butler is one of a restricted number of people with access to his personal apartments

Apart from the Pope himself, this community is made up of his two private secretaries - both ordained priests - Georg Gaenswein, from Germany, and Alfred Xuereb, from Malta, and four Italian consecrated nuns - Carmela, Loredana, Cristina and Rosella - who carry out domestic chores for Pope Benedict, cook for him, and clean the papal apartments.

Paolo Gabriele holds the keys that open the locks on one of the most carefully guarded residences in the world.

He took them over from another longtime Vatican servant, Angelo Gugel, butler and valet to the late Pope John Paul II.

The reason why Mr Gabriele is being interrogated first by Vatican rather than Italian police is that he holds dual citizenship - that of the Vatican City State as well as of Italy.

He lives with his wife and three children in a "grace and favour" apartment just inside the walls of the Vatican.

According to Fr David Scito, professor of canon law at Rome's Papal Holy Cross University, Mr Gabriele will appear before the Apostolic Tribunal, the Vatican's Criminal Court, if he is charged with a crime that has been committed inside Vatican territory.

It is very rare for an arrest and trial to be held inside the Vatican.

Most petty crimes committed within its walls - such as pickpockets discovered fleecing tourists inside Saint Peter's Basilica or inside the Vatican Museums, are dealt with summarily by Italian police.








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