ROME • Two journalists and three Vatican officials went on trial in the Vatican yesterday over the publication of classified documents in a case that critics have attacked as having a whiff of the Inquisition.
All five face up to eight years in jail for obtaining and disclosing confidential papers "concerning the fundamental interests of the Vatican State".
The unprecedented prosecution of journalists is being pursued under legislation rushed through in 2013, a year after Pope Benedict XVI's butler leaked damaging information on Vatican infighting that plunged it into crisis and, it is widely believed, contributed to the pontiff's decision to retire.
Spanish priest Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, Italian PR expert Francesca Chaouqui and a third Vatican official, Nicola Maio, are charged with criminal association in order to obtain the documents and then divulging them to the press.
Journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi are accused of illegal disclosure and pressuring the Vatican officials, particularly Vallejo Balda, to obtain documents which they used as material for books depicting financial irregularities in the Holy See.
Nuzzi and Fittipaldi's books showed that, among other issues, charity money was spent on refurbishing the houses of powerful cardinals. Nuzzi's book contains a transcript of secret recordings of Pope Francis complaining about the Vatican throwing away money through poor financial management.