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Pope pardons butler but expels him from Vatican

Published on Dec 23, 2012 6:09 AM
 Pope Benedict XVI (L) talks with former butler Paolo Gabriele during a private audience at the Vatican Dec 22, 2012. Pope Benedict has pardoned Gabriele, his former butler who was convicted in Oct of leaking sensitive documents that alleged corruption in the Holy See, the Vatican said on Saturday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday pardoned his former butler Paolo Gabriele, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing secret papal memos, but banished the once loyal servant from the Vatican forever.

"This morning the Holy Father Benedict XVI visited Paolo Gabriele in prison in order to confirm his forgiveness and to inform him personally of his acceptance of Mr Gabriele's request for pardon," the Vatican said in a statement.

The pardon for Gabriele, who was convicted and sentenced in October by a Vatican court for leaking secret papal documents to the press, was a "paternal gesture" for a man "with whom the pope shared a relationship of daily familiarity for many years".

However, the ex-butler "cannot resume his previous occupation or continue to live in Vatican City," it added. After a 15-minute meeting with Benedict, Gabriele returned home to his wife and three children, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said. He had spent a total of three and a half months in detention.

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