Pope's butler and personal attendant:"I acted only out of visceral love for the Church of Christ"

Pope Benedict XVI's former butler Paolo Gabriele (R) sitting in a courtroom for the start of a closely-watched case that could see him receive up to four years in prison for aggravated theft.

"The thing that I feel strongly in me is the conviction that I acted only out of visceral love for the Church of Christ and for its visible head (the Pope)," the father of three told the court.

Vatican prosecutors have asked for a three-year prison sentence for the Pope's butler, who is accused of stealing hundreds of confidential documents, some of them from the desk of Benedict XVI himself.

The documents revealed intrigue, infighting and allegations of corruption and nepotism at the heart of the Holy See, in one of the biggest scandals to hit the Vatican for years.

Mr Gabriele allegedly handed the documents to an Italian journalist who published them in May in a sensational book which lifted the lid on feuds within the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church.

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Judges refused to admit evidence from the Church's own investigation.

Gabriele told investigators he had acted because he saw "evil and corruption everywhere in the Church" 

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