In 2012, he rocked the Vatican with leaked documents. Now Paolo Gabriele, Benedict XVI's former valet de chambre, has been found guilty. died unexpectedly. Besides great excitement, what's left of the scandals he uncovered?
The news came as a surprise on Tuesday. Paolo Gabriele, the man to whom the world owes the term "Vatileaks," is dead. At 54, the former Vatican employee had succumbed to a long illness, the Vatican press room said. A side note at a time of scandals surrounding St. Peter's Basilica.
There are those who say Gabriele's actions pale in comparison to the current scandals surrounding embezzlement and abuse. Perhaps the data provided by Benedict XVI's former valet de chambre were. revealed, but also the beginning – the trigger – of an unprecedented transparency campaign in the Papal States.
Almost ten years ago the confusion was great in Rome. Incriminating documents kept appearing – seemingly out of nowhere. Documents that speak of corruption in the Vatican up to the highest levels, of nepotism or "homosexual rope teams" in the Papal States. For many faithful Catholics, it is unimaginable that such abuses exist under the eyes of the Pope.
Just as important is the question: where does this data from anonymous sources come from in the first place?? It was about documents to which, in addition to Pope Benedict XVI. only his secretaries Georg Ganswein and Alfred Xuereb had access, and his valet Paolo Gabriele. When the 2012 was finally "outed" as a leak, the scandal was there. "Vatileaks" has become a fixed term in the media, based on the "Wikileaks" platform, through which sensitive internal information from the U.S. government, among others, has been made public for years.
It was a book by Vatican journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi that published the "secret letters from the desk of Benedict XVI." brought to light. Notes of conversations, correspondences and documents that could later be traced back to Paolo Gabriele.
In April 2012, Pope Benedict XVI set. set up an investigative commission to clarify the background of the leak. Particularly delicate: Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who later became a cardinal, also supported this panel. The same one who, in the summer of 2020, himself not only lost his cardinal title because of serious financial offenses, but was also indicted.
After just a few weeks of work, the panel pinpointed Chamberlain Gabriele as the person responsible for "Vatileaks". A conclusion that, by the way, was doubted by some voices in the Vatican, since even after his arrest, internal documents continued to be leaked to the media.
Gabriele himself admitted his deeds, but repeatedly affirmed that he did not want to harm his employer, the pope, but rather to help him. The abuses against which Benedict XVI. he only wanted to better bring to light with these publications.
Sentenced to an 18-month prison term, the pope's official was to serve his sentence in a Vatican prison rather than an Italian one. On 25. October 2012 he began his sentence. Not even two months later, on 22. In December, the Pope pardoned him and released him from the rest of his prison sentence. Gabriele later accepted a new assignment at the Vatican's Bambino Gesu children's hospital. For Paolo Gabriele the story was finished from here on.
Complicit in the Pope's resignation?
There are observers who attribute to Gabriele a share of responsibility for the resignation of Benedict XVI. to. The pope had been hit hard by the betrayal of such a close collaborator. At the time, the pope was described by confidants as "shocked and saddened" by this "painful" announcement. His historic resignation from the papacy in February 2013 was less than a year away, so it stands to reason that the "Vatileaks" scandal contributed to it.
The now emeritus pope, however, vehemently denies it. "My resignation has absolutely nothing to do with any of this," he wrote in May 2020. It was more physical and mental fatigue, he said, that made him fear he could no longer carry out his papacy in a way that would do justice to the faithful. The "Vatileaks" scandal, however, may have done its part to contribute to this fatigue.
Consequences: Clarification and transparency
Even though the "Vatileaks" scandal so slowly disappeared from the meids starting in late 2012, however, the real work now really began for the Vatican. Clarification and transparency are needed, it was demanded by a wide range of bodies. That something was wrong with the Vatican finances had been rumored in Rome for a long time, but the true extent of the financial scandal was probably not clear to many people. Cleaning up this tangled web was to become one of the new Pope Francis' main concerns.
If, from March 2013, the world paid attention above all to the new pope's unusual gestures, his life in the guesthouse or his visit to the public optometrist, it quickly became clear internally: this pope wants to clean up his act. "No one should be untouchable," it has been said – and continues to be said – when it comes to Francis' line on financial disclosure. The times are said to be over in which Vatican officials pocketed money for themselves or favored family members.
First, Francis turned his attention to the "Vatican Bank" IOR, which has long had a reputation for being involved in money laundering. Bank bosses' grants were cut, an external financial investigator was appointed as head, and for the first time in Vatican history, the Vatican asked Italy for legal support in this wide-ranging investigative case.
In February 2014 – also still in the first year of his pontificate – Francis established two newly formed bodies, the Economic Council and the Economic Secretariat, to oversee Vatican finances.
Problems up to the present
But that was not the end of the story. Transparency problems in Vatican finances continue to make waves into 2020. As recently as October, for example, Francis stripped the Vatican Secretariat of State, the highest administrative body of the Papal States, of its financial authority. The Secretariat of State must also now clarify its finances with the central economic office Apsa. This was preceded a year earlier, in October 2019, by another previously unthinkable step: a raid on the Secretariat of State. One of the findings at the time was that the Vatican was involved in speculative financial deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars involving a luxury property in London.
However, as corruption and nepotism remained a problem, in June of this year the Vatican published a completely new legal text with over 100 articles dealing with the awarding of public contracts in the name of the Vatican.
Turmoil over Cardinal Becciu
The biggest headlines this year, however, have been around former Curia Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu. Becciu, as mentioned earlier, had himself helped to clear up the "Vatileaks" scandal in 2013, and even then found clear words against corruption in the Vatican. Then in the summer of 2020, he himself had to take his hat because he was accused of exactly the same thing. Becciu lost not only his duties but also his rights as a cardinal. A move that is extremely rare and has never happened before in the Vatican because of financial misconduct.
Is the Vatican now cleared up with it? Is everything in the finances now above board?? Despite educational work that has now spanned almost a decade, the Vatican still seems to be far from it. Just a few weeks ago, the Council of Europe's financial intelligence agencies raided Vatican financial institutions. Both sides said that the Vatican had shown the greatest possible cooperation and openness. It will be in the spirit of Pope Francis.