(AP) Pope Benedict's former butler, Paolo Gabriele, has been sentenced to 18 months' jail for stealing his employer's private correspondence.
Gabriele made a last-minute plea before the Vatican court that he acted out of love for the pope and did not "feel like a thief".
Reading out the sentence, which was lower than the three years demanded by the Vatican's prosecutor, judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre said the verdict took into account Gabriele's clean record, years of service and his regret for his actions. He described Gabriele's behaviour as "misguided".
As the sentence was read out on Saturday, Gabriele – who was also ordered to pay costs – remained impassive. His lawyer, Cristiana Arru, said he would return to house arrest while the court decided whether he would actually be jailed. The pope is widely expected to step in and pardon his former aide.
Arru described the verdict as a "good sentence".
Gabriele, 46, told investigators that he felt like an "agent of the Holy Spirit" as he leaked sensitive documents from the papal
The letters were
"The thing I feel strongly inside me is the conviction of having reacted exclusively out of love, I would say visceral love, for the church of Christ and its living head," Gabriele told the court at the end of the hour-long hearing on Saturday. "If I have to repeat this: I don't feel like a thief."
In her summing up Arru told the panel of three judges that Gabriele had only photocopied documents from the papal apartment and had not stolen originals, a claim challenged by the prosecutor, who told the court that original documents had been found among the more than 1,000 relevant documents in Gabriele's apartment.