Andrea Gabrieleâ€™s comments marked the first by relatives of papal butler Paolo Gabriele, who was arrested May 23 after scores of documents from the papal apartments were found in his Vatican City home. He is accused of aggravated theft and remains the only suspect in the case of leaked Vatican documents, which exposed corruption, infighting and power struggles in the Catholic Churchâ€™s highest levels of governance.
While Andrea Gabriele defended his son, he hinted that the motivation behind the leaks was to expose wrongdoing for the sake of purifying the church. He said he hoped that Benedictâ€™s call to carry out â€œthe necessary cleaning of the churchâ€ is realized.
â€œPaolo is paying the price firsthand for a reality thatâ€™s difficult to understand until the motive of what has happened is made public,â€ he wrote in the letter to Italian television station Tgcom 24, which published it on its website.
The younger Gabriele, a 46-year-old father of three, has been imprisoned in a holding facility located inside the Vatican gendarmesâ€™ barracks since his arrest; he is allowed regular visits by his family and lawyers, and attends Mass weekly.
Many Vatican watchers have seen in the leaks a plot to undermine the authority of Benedictâ€™s No. 2, the Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who has been blamed for a host of gaffes during Benedictâ€™s seven-year papacy. But in one of his last acts before going on vacation July 3, Benedict sent a letter to Bertone, lamenting the â€œunjust criticismâ€ that had been leveled against him and reaffirming his confidence in him.
Benedictâ€™s gesture was evidence of the seriousness with which the leaks have been treated in the Vatican. Aside from the criminal investigation that resulted in Paolo Gabrieleâ€™s arrest, Benedict appointed three cardinals to canvas the Vatican bureaucracy to get to the bottom of the leaks.
They are due to report back to the pope this week. Also expected soon is a decision on whether Gabriele will be indicted or whether charges will be dropped. If he is indicted, a trial in the Vatican tribunal â€” which would be open to the media â€” is likely to begin in September, the Vatican has said.
In the letter, Andrea Gabriele insisted on his sonâ€™s â€œgreat generosity and moral integrity,â€ and his love for the church and both Benedict and Pope John Paul II. He said his son â€œis an honest person and will wait as long as it takes until everything is clarified.â€