Pope Benedict's former butler is to stand trial for stealing confidential Vatican papers and then leaking them to the press, a magistrate ruled on Monday.

According to the BBC, Paolo Gabriele was arrested in May after police found confidential documents in his possession at his Vatican flat.

Gabriele has been charged with aggravated theft, including stealing a $122,358 check, while a computer analyst he allegedly worked with faces complicity charges.

Gabriele has admitted he was the source of letters leaked in a controversial new book by an Italian investigative journalist in May. The bestseller, entitled His Holiness, made public private correspondence between the Pope and his personal secretary discussing corruption and malpractice among Vatican administrators.

The Vatican called the book 'criminal' and vowed to take legal action against the author, publisher, and whoever leaked the documents. Observers were surprised to hear this week that it has been determined that the pope's former butler did not act alone.

However, because it is not in the best interest of the Vatican to have a criminal trial in the glare of the world's media, there has already been speculation that Gabriele (who has confessed fully to investigators and who has written a private letter of apology to Pope Benedict) might receive a papal pardon before the trial can begin in September.

Gabriele told investigators he had acted because he saw 'evil and corruption everywhere in the church' of which the the pope was 'not sufficiently informed.'

Gabriele was one of a select few with free access to the papal apartments. If convicted, he could face up to six years in prison.

The 46-year-old is currently living under house arrest at his family's flat in Vatican City, where police discovered confidential correspondence taken from the Pope's Secretariat of State.

The Holy See has accused Vatican employee Claudio Sciarpelletti, a computer analyst and programmer, of acting as Gabriele's accomplice. Sciarpelletti has been charged with aiding and abetting a crime.


Paolo Gabriele and Pope BenedictPhotograph: AGF /Rex Features