The 46-year-old Italian, a father of three, has worked in the Papal Household under both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. He is one of very few individuals who have daily access to the Pope.
In a statement issued May 28, Gabriele’s attorney said his client would offer “the most comprehensive collaboration” in all subsequent legal proceedings. He also said that the Pope’s butler had been “very peaceful and tranquil” during their recent discussions.
Fr. Lombardi confirmed that the Vatican’s chief prosecutor, Nicola Picardi, has now completed the first phase of the investigation into Gabriele’s activities, which resulted in the decision to bring charges.
Vatican magistrate Piero Antonio Bonnet will now carry out a second phase of the investigation to decide whether those charges should be tried in court or dropped.
While the criminal investigation continues, Fr. Lombardi played down speculation in the Italian media that Vatican police are about to swoop in on a wider network of conspirators, of which Gabriele is only a junior member.
“The notion that an Italian Cardinal is being investigated is completely false,” said Fr. Lombardi. “I also categorically deny that a woman is being questioned in this case.”
The Vatican spokesman also added that it seemed both “exaggerated” and “unfounded” to ascribe recent events to power struggles within the Vatican.
The arrest of Gabriele followed several months of so-called “Vatileaks” in which numerous confidential documents about the internal workings of the Vatican were passed on to the Italian media.
Earlier this month, Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi released a new book entitled “Sua Santita” (His Holiness), which contained a series of leaked letters addressed personally to Pope Benedict XVI. The author claimed to have more than one source of information from inside the Vatican.
In April, Pope Benedict responded to the spate of leaks by establishing a special commission of three cardinals, chaired by the Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, to investigate their source.
Fr. Lombardi confirmed that cardinals are continuing their work in parallel with the ongoing police investigation.