Rome (CNN) -- The pope's former butler, Paolo Gabriele, was convicted Saturday of aggravated theft for leaking confidential papal documents and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
He was also ordered to pay the costs of the trial at the Vatican City courthouse.
The case is the biggest to go before the Vatican court in decades. It has been the subject of intense interest because a book based on the leaked papers revealed claims of corruption within the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy.
Presiding judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre said he was reducing the three-year term requested by the prosecution to 18 months because of mitigating circumstances.
Among them were original papers signed by Pope Benedict XVI, some of them stamped with an order for destruction, according to the journalists allowed to attend the trial.
Also found in his possession were a gold nugget belonging to the pope, a signed check made out to Pope Benedict XVI for 100,000 euros and an original version of Virgil's Aeneid from 1581.
In his testimony Tuesday, the former butler declared himself not guilty of a charge of aggravated theft in connection with the leaked documents -- but said he had abused the pope's trust.
He told how he had photocopied many confidential papal papers, saying he did so because he wanted to expose wrongdoing and corruption.
(CNN) -- The Vatican expressed rare public anger Wednesday in blasting the leaking of private papers from the pope's apartment, a scandal that observers say lifts the lid on a secret power struggle going on behind the closed doors of the Catholic Church.
A top Roman Catholic Church official called the theft of the documents "an immoral act of unprecedented gravity" and "despicable abuse of the relationship of trust that exists between Benedict XVI and those who turn to him."
Archbishop Angelo Becciu made the remarks to the Vatican's official newspaper six days after the pope's butler was arrested for leaking the papers.
Paolo Gabriele, 46, was arrested Wednesday on accusations of illegal possession of confidential documents, the Vatican said in a statement issued three days after the arrest.
With the leaks, the pope's very ministry "has come under attack," Becciu said.
The pope himself referred briefly to the scandal at the end of his regular Wednesday audience, his first public remarks on the matter.
He criticized reports about the affair as "entirely gratuitous" and presenting "a completely unrealistic image of the Holy See."
But experts say that exactly the opposite may be the truth, and that the arrest, alongside the firing of the head of the Vatican Bank a day later, may reveal the battle going on behind the scenes at the Vatican.
The two events are bad PR for the top hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, but they may be more than that, experts say. They could affect who becomes the next pope.
The effect of each one is the same: to weaken the authority of Pope Benedict XVI's second in command.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, is involved in a power struggle with his predecessor, experts say.
The case is the biggest to go before the Vatican court in decades
How is such a blatant injustice allowed?
What was the Pope doing?