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Ex-papal butler starts jail term in Vatican

Thursday - 10/25/2012, 9:28am  ET

AP: 47bc3892-c455-41ff-9120-710b6186dd83
Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives for an audience to followers of the Renewal In Spirit movement in St. Peter's square at the Vatican, Saturday, May 26, 2012. The Vatican has confirmed Saturday, May 26, 2012, that the pope's butler Paolo Gabriele was arrested in an embarrassing leaks scandal. Spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said Paolo Gabriele was arrested in his home inside Vatican City with secret documents in his possession. Gabriele, a layman, was being held. Vatican documents leaked to the press in recent months have pointed to power struggles and accusations of corruption touching senior Vatican cardinals.(AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI's former butler is starting his 18-month prison sentence in a Vatican City cell for the theft of papal correspondence.

But the Vatican's secretary of state's office in a statement left open the possibility of a papal pardon if Paolo Gabriele repents and asks the pope for forgiveness.

The Thursday statement said the deadline to appeal the Oct. 6 conviction by a Vatican tribunal had elapsed. It described as `'mild and fair" the punishment given to Gabriele, who used to serve Benedict his meals and helped him get ready for ceremonies. It noted that Benedict, as sovereign head, has the power to pardon.

Dismissing suspicions of a plot, the Vatican said Gabriele acted alone in pilfering the documents and giving them to an Italian journalist who published them.

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