Spanish priest who claimed he leaked Vatican secrets after being 'blackmailed' by Italian lover freed early from prison by the Pope

By Dave Burke
Daily Mail
December 21, 2016

Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda is set to be freed early from prison after the Pope intervened

Pope Francis has granted 'conditional freedom' to the priest, who had been jailed by a Vatican court for 18 months

Journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi, Emiliano Fittipaldi, Italian PR expert Francesca Chaouqui and Monsignor Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda attending their trial for the publication of classified documents last year

A senior Vatican official has been granted forgiveness by the Pope and freed from jail after he was convicted of leaking secrets to journalists.

Spanish Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda was given 'conditional freedom' by Pope Francis, having served half of an 18-month sentence handed out by a Vatican court.

He was convicted of passing confidential documents to journalists, and has been sacked from his job as a high-ranking finance official.

In July, a Vatican court convicted Vallejo of conspiring to pass documents on to two journalists, Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi, although it cleared him and a co-defendant of forming a criminal organisation to do so.

The two journalists wrote blockbuster books containing a string of allegations about financial mismanagement and greed within the church.

Vallejo admitted leaking the documents, but insisted he had been 'emotionally blackmailed' by a female colleague.

He claimed he had been romantically involved with Italian PR expert Francesca Chaouqui, who had threatened to expose their relationship.

The Spanish Vatican official said he had not been 'fully lucid' when he leaked the documents and had since been treated by a psychiatrist for depression and stress.

Both journalists were cleared after a judge ruled the Vatican had no authority to prosecute them.

Chaouqui was given a 10 month suspended sentence.

The journalists wrote blockbuster books last year based on Vatican documents exposing the greed of bishops and cardinals angling for big apartments.

The book also revealed the extraordinarily high costs of getting a saint made and the loss to the Holy See of millions of euro in rental income because of undervalued property.

The documentation had been compiled by a pontifical commission that the Pope had asked to gather information about the Vatican's finances to make them more transparent and efficient.

Vallejo, the number two of the commission, admitted in court that he gave Mr Nuzzi 85 passwords to password-protected documents.

Publishing confidential information is a crime in the Vatican, punishable by up to eight years in prison.

The trial had several surreal moments, including when Vallejo was put back under house arrest after a friend sneaked a mobile phone to him inside a cake.

Francis' Christmas-time clemency harks back to the 2012 gesture granted by Pope Benedict XVI to his then-butler, who had been convicted of giving Mr Nuzzi confidential documents for an earlier book about Vatican misdeeds.

Vallejo will now fall under the authority of his local bishop in Astorga, Spain.


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