Vatileaks pair convicted of leaks but journalists cleared

Francesca Chaouqui and Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda Image copyright AP
Image caption Francesca Chaouqui and Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda were both found guilty

A court in the Vatican has found a priest and a PR consultant guilty of leaking official documents, while two journalists and a church secretary have been acquitted.

The papers were cited in books, published in 2015, that alleged corruption in the Catholic Church.

Mgr Angelo Lucio Vallejo Balda has been sentenced to 18 months in jail.

His former colleague, Francesca Chaouqui, was given a 10-month suspended sentence.

She gave birth to a son three weeks ago.

Prosecutors had asked for longer sentences of more than three years for both Mgr Vallejo and Ms Chaouqui.

The judges said they did not have the authority to try the Italian journalists.

The men had argued that their alleged offences of publishing leaked information had not taken place on Vatican soil.

Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi published books called Avarice and Merchants in the Temple based on documentation from a commission set up by Pope Francis to tackle the Vatican's financial holdings and propose reforms to improve cash flow to the poor.

Mgr Vallejo and Ms Chaouqui were part of the reform commission.

They, along with the priest's secretary Nicola Maio, were accused of leaking documents to the journalists.

Inside the Vatican's justice system

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe BBC's James Reynolds sits in the hearing, in May 2016

'Never betrayed the Pope'

Ms Chaouqui has been the subject of much media attention during the trial, particularly as the nature of her relationship with Mgr Vallejo was discussed.

The priest said she seduced him in a hotel room in Florence in 2014. She denied this, and questioned his sexual orientation. The pair, who had been colleagues and friends, testified against each other and have now both been found guilty.

Three weeks before the verdicts, Ms Chaouqui and her husband had a baby son. She went to court with the newborn and said that if she were sent to jail, he would be starting his life behind bars.

After the trial was over, Ms Chaouqui said she had been punished for carrying messages between Mgr Vallejo and the journalists, but was relieved not to have been found to be a whistleblower.

"This has been the hardest test of my life," she said. "I never faced something so painful in my life.

"Today an ordeal finishes for me.

"Today I can say that I never betrayed the Pope. This is my biggest victory."

First Vatileaks trial

This is not the first time that Vatican officials have gone on trial over the leak of sensitive documents from the Vatican.

In 2012 the last Pope's former butler, Paolo Gabriele, was sentenced to 18 months in jail after being found guilty of stealing sensitive documents from the Pope's desk, in a scandal dubbed Vatileaks.

He served nearly three months of his sentence under house arrest in the Vatican before Pope Benedict visited him and personally pardoned him.

The Vatican has only two prison cells but it can ask Italy to house its prisoners under the terms of a 1929 treaty.

More on this story