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Pope interrupts holiday to hold top-level meeting on Vatican leaks

Fr Federico Lombardi discusses the leaks at a Vatican news conference (CNS)

Pope Benedict XVI has interrupted his holiday to hold a top-level meeting of Vatican officials involved in investigating the leak of Vatican documents.

The meeting included the commission of cardinals appointed to conduct an administrative review of Vatican offices and procedures, as well as the judges involved in the criminal case against the Pope’s personal assistant. The meeting also included the head of the Vatican police and representatives of the Vatican secretariat of state, Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said.

Greg Burke, the former Fox News journalist appointed by the Pope to advise the Vatican secretary of state on communications strategy, also participated, he said.

The Holy Father was informed about the conclusions of the investigation carried out since late April by the cardinals’ commission and about the status of the official investigation of his former butler, Paolo Gabriele, Fr Lombardi said.

The Pope thanked the cardinals for their report and “asked the Vatican magistrates to continue their work with diligence”, Fr Lombardi said in a statement.

The spokesman said the conclusions of the criminal investigation of Mr Gabriele and the Vatican judge’s decision on whether to indict Mr Gabriele and put him on trial are expected to be published on August 6 or August 7.

A parallel, wide-ranging inquiry of leaks was conducted by retired Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, retired Slovakian Cardinal Jozef Tomko and retired Italian Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi. Pope Benedict had asked the cardinals, all former Vatican officials, to help him understand the reasons behind the leaks and the problems they appear to indicate.

The cardinals’ commission was formed about a month before Vatican police arrested Mr Gabriele. Confidential letters and documents addressed to the Pope and other Vatican officials were allegedly found in his Vatican apartment. Similar documents had been published in the Italian media beginning in January. Many of the documents published in the press dealt with allegations of corruption, abuse of power and a lack of financial transparency at the Vatican.

Mr Gabriele was granted house arrest on July 21 after 60 days in Vatican custody. His lawyers have told reporters that what their client did he did out of love for the Pope and the Church. They said he has written to the Pope asking forgiveness. The lawyers added, however, that whether anything Mr Gabriele did was a crime will be up to Vatican magistrates or a Vatican court to determine.