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Judgment looms for butler who leaked papal papers

* Gabriele has admitted leaks, does not consider it a crime

* Could get up to four years in jail, pope could pardon him

* Sentence would be served in an Italian jail

By Naomi O'Leary and Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY, Oct 6 (Reuters) - A trial that has thrown openthe window on a betrayal of trust and sensitive secrets in theVatican will come to a head on Saturday with final argumentsbefore judges deliver their verdict on Pope Benedict's formerbutler.

The so-called "Vatileaks" trial, which began last Saturday,is due to wind up after only four hearings when the prosecutionand defence make closing arguments on Saturday morning.

Paolo Gabriele, 46, who has been tried under a 19th-centuryItalian penal code, will be given the chance to have the lastsay before the three-judge panel retires to deliberate behindclosed doors.

A former member of the small, select group known as "thepapal family", and one of fewer than 10 people who had a key toan elevator leading directly to the pope's apartments, Gabrielefaces up to four years in prison if he is convicted, as isexpected. He would serve out the sentence in an Italian jailbecause the Vatican has no such facility.

In the course of the trial, intimate details emerged of theinner workings of an institution long renowned for its secrecy.

Gabriele, who is charged with aggravated theft, has admittedbeing the source of leaks of highly sensitive papers, includingletters to the pope that alleged corruption in the Vatican'sbusiness dealings.

The documents constituted one of the biggest crises of PopeBenedict's papacy when they emerged in a muckraking expose by anItalian journalist earlier this year.

The case has been an embarrassment for the Vatican, comingat a time when it was keen to rid itself from the taint left bya series of scandals involving sexual abuse of minors by clericsaround the world and mismanagement at its bank.

PAPAL PARDON?

Gabriele, a trusted servant who served the pope meals,helped him dress and rode in the popemobile, has told the courthe does not consider himself guilty of a crime.

He told investigators before the trial began that he leakedthe documents because he saw "evil and corruption everywhere inthe Church" and that information was being hidden from the pope.

Earlier this week Gabriele accused the Holy See's police ofmistreating him while in custody. Members of the force in turndepicted the butler as a man obsessed with the occult, Masoniclodges and secret services.

He has asked for Benedict's forgiveness and expressedfeelings of guilt and remorse for betraying the man he said he"loved as a son would".

If Gabriele is ordered to serve time in jail, the pope couldpardon him, which would absolve him from having to serve asentence.

The pontiff has the power to do this because besides beingthe head of the 1.2 billion-member Roman Catholic Church, he isthe absolute monarch of the Vatican City state, where thealleged crime took place.

"Paolo Gabriele may well be pardoned but it will certainlysend a message in the Vatican about how people behave," GregBurke, a senior communications adviser for the Vatican, said.

"In the past there's often been the idea that anybody couldget away with anything. That's clearly not the case."

The Vatican has been eager for the trial to finish quickly,holding hearings on Saturdays to avoid it overshadowing a Synodof Bishops, an important Church convention that takes placeevery few years which is due to start on Sunday.

Ending after only four sessions - something unheard of inthe Italian legal system - has raised the question whether theman who hoped a shock would "bring the Church back on the righttrack," will have altered the institution he set out to change.

"It has surely changed something but in my opinion, not toomuch," said Rome resident Nicoletta Fresa. "It will never bepossible to penetrate this closed realm of the Vatican and theirsecrets."

(Additional reporting by Hanna Rantala and Antonio Denti;Editing by Michael Roddy)

((philip.pullella@thomsonreuters.com)(+39-06-85224358))

Keywords: POPE BUTLER/

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