VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis has granted early release to a Spanish priest who was sentenced to 18 months in jail by a Vatican court for leaking confidential information to journalists.
Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda was sentenced in August for stealing and passing Vatican documents to two Italian journalists in the so-called Vatileaks 2 case.
In a brief statement released late Tuesday (Dec. 20), the Vatican said:
“Considering that the Rev. Vallejo Balda has already served more than half of the sentence, the Holy Father Francis has given him the benefit of conditional release. … It is a measure of clemency which allows him to regain freedom. The penalty is not resolved, but he can enjoy the benefit of parole.”
Vallejo Balda was to be released from prison Tuesday and have no further employment in the Holy See. He will return to his home diocese in Spain.
Since his arrest in 2015, the monsignor has been in custody in a Vatican jail, though he later transferred to another Vatican property.
The first Vatileaks trial led to the conviction, and then pardon, of Paolo Gabriele, the former butler of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI found guilty of leaking private documents that exposed fierce infighting and political intrigue inside the Vatican.
Vallejo Balda and co-defendant Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui — members of the Vatican’s now-defunct financial commission — were both found guilty in the Vatileaks 2 trial.
Chaouqui got a suspended term of 10 months. Their aide Nicola Maio was acquitted, while the Vatican court said it did not have jurisdiction over the two journalists named in the case, Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, who were both cleared.
(Josephine McKenna is RNS’ Vatican correspondent)