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Pope's butler agrees to cooperate in probe

One of the biggest scandals to rock the Vatican in decades widened Monday with the pope's butler, arrested last week for allegedly having confidential documents in his home, agreeing to cooperate with investigators -- raising the specter that higher-ranking ecclesial heads may soon roll.

Few believe butler Paolo Gabriele worked alone to leak dozens of documents shedding light on power struggles, corruption and intrigue inside the highest levels of the Catholic Church. The leaks have tormented the Vatican for months and painted a picture of a church hierarchy in utter disarray.

Gabriele, the pope's personal butler since 2006, was arrested Wednesday evening after Holy See documents were found inside his Vatican City apartment, adding an unfathomable Hollywood twist to the already sordid Vatileaks scandal. He remains in custody in a Vatican detention facility, accused of theft, and has met with his wife and attorneys.

Gabriele's attorney, Carlo Fusco, said Monday his client was "very serene and calm," despite the whirlwind of speculation surrounding his arrest.

Italian media reported Monday that a cardinal is suspected of playing a major role in the scandal. However, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, denied the reports categorically. He said many Vatican officials were being questioned but insisted "there is no cardinal under suspicion."

But Lombardi acknowledged that the investigation continues.

And Monday, Italian daily La Repubblica published a rambling interview with what it described as another Vatican "mole," someone who described the various agendas at play behind the leaks.

The unnamed leaker said the aim was to show how weak Pope Benedict XVI is, the fears of his secretary of state, and to make clear that the "fundamental role of the church is to defend the Gospel, not accumulate power and money."

Lombardi dismissed as "pure fantasy" such a rash of unsourced reports about the investigation in the Italian media, which have been on a frenzy ever since reports of Gabriele's detention emerged Friday.

Gabriele, 46, a father of three, was always considered loyal to Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul II, whom he briefly served.

Vatican insiders have said they are baffled by his alleged involvement, and Lombardi said Monday that the entire scandal has caused pain throughout the Vatican.

Benedict, who in March appointed a commission of cardinals to investigate the leaks, was being kept informed of developments and is "aware of the delicate situation that the Roman curia is going through," Lombardi said.

The Vatileaks scandal broke in January when Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi broadcast letters from the former No. 2 Vatican administrator to the pope in which he begged not to be transferred for having exposed alleged corruption that cost the Holy See millions of euros in higher contract prices. The prelate, Monsignor Carlo Maria Vigano, is now the Vatican's U.S. ambassador.

The scandal reached a peak last weekend, when Nuzzi published a book based on new documentation, including personal correspondence to and from the pope and his private secretary, much of which paints Benedict's No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in a negative light.

The arrest of Gabriele occurred almost simultaneously with another stunning development inside the secretive walls of the Vatican: the ouster of Benedict's hand-picked president of the Vatican bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi. The bank's board ousted Tedeschi for failing to do his job.

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