On Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI’S former butler Paolo Gabriele was officially sentenced to three years in prison for stealing secret documents from the Vatican. His sentence was immediately reduced to only half that - 18 months.

The Journal
reports on the sentencing handed down to Gabriele from the presiding judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre.

“In the name of his holiness Pope Benedict XVI, who reigns in glory, and invoking the Holy Trinity… this court sentences the defendant to three years in prison,” said Judge Torre.

However, he continued by saying “Considering the absence of a criminal record, of the subjective though erroneous motivation, and the acknowledgement of having betrayed the trust of the holy father, it reduces the sentence to one year and six months.”

The Pope’s former butler was accused of stealing hundreds of secret documents from the Pope, some of which were marked ‘To Be Destroyed.’ Gabriele, however, claimed he was innocent of theft as he was only looking to save the Pope from what he believed may have been manipulation.

In his final statement, Gabriele said he had “acted out of visceral love for the Church of Christ and of its leader on earth.”

“I do not feel that I am a thief,” he added.

Gabriele’s lawyer Cristiana Arru asked for leniency from the judge, insisting that her client felt he had “a moral motivation” and never intended to formulate a “scheme or plot” aimed at damaging the Church or the pope.

Arru said she thought the judge’s decision “was a good sentence,” and that she would “have to evaluate” whether or not she and her client would pursue an appeal.

With hopes of displaying what he believed to be “evil and corruption” at the heart of the Roman Catholic Church and feelings that the pontiff was potentially “manipulated,” Gabriele shared his findings with an Italian journalist under the codename Maria.

The Italian journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi, later published the findings in the book “His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI.” Nuzzi praised Gabriele as being “courageous” in his actions.

The Independent writes that the book “contained allegations of fraud in the running of the city state and cloak-and-dagger intrigue among the pope’s closest collaborators.”

“Many of the documents contain barbs against the Vatican’s powerful Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, a divisive figure who has expanded his powers since being appointed by the pope in 2006 and is challenged by some leading prelates.”

Though Gabriele has been given his sentence, many experts believe that the Pope may offer a pardoning for him.

Paolo Gabriele and Pope BenedictPhotograph: AGF /Rex Features