Paolo Gabriele said he loved Pope Benedict XVI "as a son loves a father"—and he leaked the pope's papers to the media "out of visceral love for the church of Christ and for its visible head on Earth." The Vatican says Gabriele, the pope's former butler, has died at age 54 after a long illness, the New York Times reports. In October 2012, a Vatican tribunal sentenced him to 18 months of imprisonment in the Vatican police barracks for his role in the "Vatileaks" scandal, but Benedict pardoned him in time for him to spend Christmas that year with his wife and three children. Gabriele admitted stealing the documents over a number of months, but said the Holy Spirit had guided him to do so to expose corruption in the church. He said he believed Benedict, who was 85 in 2012, was not aware of what was happening around him.
"Seeing evil and corruption everywhere in the church, I finally reached a point of degeneration, a point of no return, and could no longer control myself," he told the tribunal. Gabriele, who had been the pope's butler for six years, was arrested weeks after Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi published His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI, which exposed Vatican infighting and allegations of corruption and mismanagement, the Washington Post reports. Two months after Gabriele was pardoned, Benedict became the first pope in almost 600 years to resign. Gabriele was exiled from the Vatican after the scandal, but the church gave him a new home and a job at a children's hospital in Rome. (Another Vatican leaker claimed the butler was a scapegoat.)