Peter Stanford: A tale of rivalry and intrigue in secret world of the Vatican
A British diplomat once characterised the Vatican as being like a palace, floating adrift from the rest of the world. It is an image that has surfaced again this week with the extraordinary spectacle of the 'Vatileaks' scandal, in which Pope Benedict XVI's butler has been accused of passing stolen documents to the Italian press at the behest of senior clerics who want to discredit their rivals at the papal court.
Paolo Gabriele (46), a valet who has worked for Benedict since 2006, is being held in custody in 'secure rooms' within the Vatican, the world's smallest sovereign state at just 108 acres. As a Vatican citizen, one of only 600, he faces being dealt with by its own justice system rather than the courts in Rome, which surrounds this enclave.
Not that the international boundary that cuts across Saint Peter's Square has deterred the Italian press from working itself up into a frenzy. Among the revelations in the private documents are details of church tax problems, its handling of child sex abuse cases, and the ongoing negotiations between Benedict and ultra traditionalist ''Lefebvrists'', currently excommunicated from the church, but whom the Pope wants to readmit to his flock, apparently at any price.