VATICAN CITY: An Italian investigative journalist who published confidential Vatican papers called on Pope Benedict XVI on Monday to pardon his former butler, who was found guilty last week of leaking the documents.
"I call solemnly on the Holy Father to accord his pardon to his former member of staff, punished for removing documents," Gianluigi Nuzzi wrote in the online edition of the French newspaper Le Monde.
Paolo Gabriele was given an 18-month prison sentence by a Vatican court on Saturday for his role in the so-called Vatileaks affair.
He was found guilty of aggravated theft after photocopying hoards of secret memos revealing scandal and intrigue in the Vatican, and passing the copies on to Nuzzi, who published them in May in a book called "His Holiness".
The journalist said Gabriele had "not violated any military or diplomatic secret" as had been the case with the Wikileaks revelations.
The Vatican's spokesman has said the pope is very likely to pardon Gabriele.
Nuzzi said he wanted to explain "the real reasons" which motivated the former butler, who was convinced he was doing something "essential and just".
"He often insisted on the fact that the Holy Father was a total stranger to the conspiracies, power struggles and financial issues revealed by the documents published in my book," Nuzzi wrote.
"He said Benedict XVI was a pure man in the midst of wolves.
"Gabriele was seeing the growth of the astronomical distance between the shepherd of the church who was working for the transparency of the relationship between states and what was being plotted behind his back," Nuzzi wrote.
He questioned how much of the information given to the pontiff was "partial or distorted... in an attempt to try to influence him."
"Paolo Gabriele became the confidant of those among the bishops and cardinals were like him torn between their faith, their sincere admiration of the pope and the backstairs manoeuvring they witnessed," Nuzzi said.