Ex-butler pardoned by Pope

Pope Benedict XVI has pardoned his former butler who was imprisoned for stealing confidential papers.

Paolo Gabriele is serving an 18-month jail sentence after being found guilty of stealing the documents from the Pope's apartments and leaking them to the Italian press.

The Pope visited Gabriele in prison to inform him of his decision in person.

The Vatican said in a statement: "This morning the Holy Father Benedict XVI visited Paolo Gabriele in prison in order to confirm his forgiveness and to inform him personally of his acceptance of Mr Gabriele's request for pardon."

The documents taken by Gabriele were leaked to Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, who used them for a bestselling book claiming corruption in the Vatican.

Gabriele confessed to taking the papers but said he had done so because he felt the Pope was being kept in the dark about corruption within the Church.

In November, computer expert Claudio Sciarpelletti was convicted over his involvement in the scandal.

Investigators found an envelope on his desk addressed to Gabriele containing copies of sensitive documents.

He was given a two-month suspended sentence.