Pope orders early prison release for priest convicted in VatiLeaks II

| Carol Glatz | December 21, 2016 | 1 Comment

Pope Francis granted clemency to a Spanish monsignor who had been sentenced to 18 months in prison for leaking confidential Vatican documents.

Msgr. Lucio Vallejo Balda, former secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, was given “conditional freedom” with his early release from a Vatican prison cell, said the Vatican press office in a written statement late Dec. 20.

Given that the monsignor has already served “more than half” of his sentence, “the Holy Father Francis has granted him conditional release,” that is, a form of “clemency which allows him to regain his freedom” under certain conditions for the remainder of his sentence, the statement said. The early release did not mean his criminal record would be expunged or “erased,” it added.

Beginning the evening of Dec. 20, “the priest will leave prison and will cease” to have any kind of connection as an employee or working relationship with the Holy See and will immediately be back under the jurisdiction of his bishop in the Diocese of Astorga, Spain.

In July, at the end of a trial dubbed “VatiLeaks II,” a Vatican court had found the 55-year-old priest guilty of stealing and passing on secret documents to journalists who published them.

The court found Francesca Chaouqui, a member of the former Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See, guilty of encouraging the leak and she received a 10-month suspended sentence.

The two Italian journalists, Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, were acquitted after the Vatican tribunal declared it had no legitimate jurisdiction over them.

Nicola Maio, Msgr. Vallejo Balda’s former assistant, was found not guilty and acquitted of all charges.

Paolo Gabriele, the former papal butler who was found guilty in 2012 of leaking reserved papal correspondence to Nuzzi was pardoned by Pope Benedict XVI after serving less than three months of an 18-month sentence.

Under the Vatican criminal code, it is a crime to take, distribute and publish confidential documents.


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