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Vatican trial set for pope's ex-butler

VATICAN CITY -- There was a time when a Vatican trial could end with a heretic being burned at the stake.

Paolo Gabriele doesn't risk nearly as dire a fate, but he and the Holy See face a very public airing over the gravest security breach in the Vatican's recent history, following the theft and leaking of the pope's personal papers.

Gabriele, the pope's once-trusted butler, goes on trial Saturday, accused of stealing the pope's documents and passing them off to a journalist -- a Hollywood-like scandal that exposed power struggles, intrigue and allegations of corruption in the highest levels of the Catholic Church.

Gabriele is charged with aggravated theft and faces up to four years in prison if convicted by the three-judge Vatican tribunal. He has confessed and asked to be pardoned by the pope -- something most Vatican watchers say is a given, if he is convicted -- making the trial almost a formality.

It's the most high-profile case to come to the Vatican tribunal since its creation with the 1929 birth of the Vatican city state. In the 1998 killing of the Swiss Guard commander and his wife, allegedly by a disgruntled subordinate, there was no trial because the suspect committed suicide. -- AP

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