Vatileaks trial: Two guilty of leaking secret documents

Journalists escape conviction for publishing details of alleged corruption in the Catholic Church

PR consultant Francesca Chaouqui outside the courthouse in the Vatican
(Image credit: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

A Vatican court has found a priest and a PR consultant guilty of leaking confidential documents to journalists.

Three others caught up in the so-called "Vatileaks" scandal, including the journalists, Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi, were cleared as the judges declared they did not have jurisdiction to try them.

Both men wrote books based on the information they received, which alleged corruption and financial mismanagement within the Catholic Church.

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"This trial confirms that there is the right for a journalist to inform, even in this state," said Nuzzi.

Spanish monsignor Angel Lucio Vallejo Balda, who admitted handing over 87 passwords, will spend 18 months in jail.

He told the court he was being treated for depression and stress at the time and had acted "spontaneously" when he was "probably not fully lucid".

Francesca Chaouqui, an Italian public relations consultant, was given a ten-month suspended sentence.

"Frequently outspoken during months of trial testimony, Chaouqui merely smiled as the verdict was read," the New York Times says.

Chaouqui said she was relieved "not to have been found to be a whistleblower" and said her punishment was simply for carrying messages from Vallejo to the journalists, the BBC reports.

"Today I can say that I never betrayed the Pope," she said. "This is my biggest victory."

The convictions are the second brought down in recent years for similar offences by the Vatican court. In 2012, Pope Benedict's butler, Paolo Gabriele, was sentenced to 18 months for leaking sensitive documents.

Pope Benedict personally pardoned Gabriele three months into his sentence, giving Balda some hope of a reprieve.

"Many Vatican watchers have wondered whether [Pope] Francis will do the same, particularly during the Holy Year of Mercy, which began last December," the New York Times says.

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