A Spanish priest and a Public Relations consultant have been found guilty by a court at the Vatican of leaking official documents that depicted the Holy See as plagued with corruption and financial mismanagement.
Two journalists and a church secretary who were also part of the defendants were however acquitted.
Good news for journalists: Vatican Court declared today it has no jurisdiction to try journalists in leaks scandal#VatiLeaks— Ricardo Gutiérrez (@Molenews1) July 7, 2016
The priest, Monsignor Angelo Lucio Vallejo Balda was sentenced to 18 months in prison while his former colleague, Francesca Chaouqui was handed a 10 month suspended sentence.
Monsignor Balda, secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See admitted to leaking several documents to two journalists, Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi.
He also admitted to giving Nuzzi five pages containing passwords to private emails and password-protected documents, reports the UK Catholic Herald.
The priest said he was under pressure from Francesca Chaoqui, who was a fellow member of the former Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic Administrative Structure of the Holy See and a co-defendant in the trial.
The journalists wrote books detailing alleged financial mismanagement at the Vatican.
The books were called Avarice and Merchants in the Temple and were based on documentation from a reform commission that was set up by Pope Francis to tackle the Vatican’s financial holdings and propose reforms to improve cash flow to the poor – both Balda and Chaoqui were members of the commission.
But the judge in his ruling on Thursday said they did not have authority to try Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi.
Earlier on Thursday, Nuzzi told reporters outside the Vatican that: “I am convinced I have done my job in a good way – this moral line that they are trying to follow doesn’t sit well with me.”
Fittipaldi on the other hand hoped to be exonerated saying: “I don’t think being a journalist is a crime and so I hope I will be absolved.”
Prosecutors on Monday requested a three-year nine-month sentence for Chaoqui and a three-year one-month sentence for Monsignor Balda. They also wanted a year’s suspended sentence for Nuzzi and for charges to be dropped against Fittipaldi for lack of sufficient evidence.
The defence however asked for full acquittal for all five.
The Vatican made it a crime to disclose official documents in 2013 following a separate leak which preceded the unexpected resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.
The Vatican does not have long term prison cells but it could ask Italy to house its prisoners under the terms of a 1929 treaty.