Paolo Gabriele (Bottom L), the pope's butler, sits in the popemobile next to Pope Benedict XVI as they arrive in St. Petr's square on April 18, 2012 for the pope's weekly general audience. Vatican police arrested the pope's butler on May 25, 2012, on allegations of having leaked confidential documents and letters from the pontiff's private study to the newspapers, Italian media reported.
Credit: AFP

LONDON, UK – Pope Benedict XVI has broken his silence over a leaked documents scandal currently convulsing the Vatican to denounce “exaggerated” and “gratuitous” reports in the media that he says paint a distorted image of the Holy See.

The Pope made his first direct remarks on the scandal – which began in January after an Italian journalist revealed letters from an ex-top Vatican official begging not to be transferred for exposing alleged corruption – at the end of his weekly general audience on Wednesday, saying:

"Suggestions have multiplied, amplified by some media which are totally gratuitous and which have gone well beyond the facts, offering an image of the Holy See which does not correspond to reality," Reuters reports.

In a reference to senior Vatican aides, who Italian media say have been waging a war of leaks revealing allegations of corruption and mismanagement as part of internal jostling for power, the Pope added:

"I would like to renew my trust and my encouragement to my closest collaborators and all those who every day, with faith, a spirit of sacrifice and in silence help me to perform my ministry."

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Last month the Pope established a special commission of cardinals to track down the source of the leaked confidential documents. But last week the Pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested and charged with illegally obtaining private papal memos after confidential documents was allegedly found at his Vatican flat, the BBC reports.

A book by Gianluigi Nuzzi, the journalist who published the controversial letters from ex-senior Vatican administrator Monsignor Carlo Maria Vigano in January, was also published last week, complete with reproductions of the Pope’s private correspondence.

The butler, Gabriele, has pledged to cooperate fully with the investigation into the leaks, but few people think he acted alone, and rumors that he was part of a group of whistleblowers led by a cardinal abound, according to the Associated Press.

The scandal represents one of the greatest breaches of trust and security for the Vatican in recent memory. The Vatican has denounced the leaks as criminal and immoral.

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