Pope frees jailed Spanish priest in Vatileaks case

Left, Pope Francis arrives in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on April 27, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi; right, Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda is shown in a YouTube video.

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)

About the author

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.


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  • From the NYT: “In both cases [of secret Vatican document leaks to the press] , the Vatican defined the disclosures as a threat to its security, and three years ago Pope Francis drafted a law making it a crime to leak secret documents pertaining to the “fundamental interests” of the Vatican state.” One has to wonder why, if Pope Francis is such a terrific guy, he is criminalizing whistleblowers, and why the Vatican feels they need to operate in secrecy, unlike any ordinary non-profit charity which must operate with full transparency to the public. Oh here’s why: he’s not such a great guy, the church is a business with vast financial holdings and considerable political influence, and they would like to continue to operate free from public scrutiny or accountability.

  • Well said!
    I would also like to commend Ms. McKenna for constraining herself to just the facts. Hopefully, this signals a change from her customary dishonest reporting about the “superstar” pope.

  • OK, so Msgr Vallejo Balba was naughty. But isn’t the Vatican, the Holy See, the only religious body in the world to operate a jail? And if it may jail a priest for leaking confidential info to journalists, why has it not jailed any of the priests found guilty of the sexual abuse of minors? Or could it be that the Vatican slammer is too small to house all of the priests found guilty of the offense of molesting children (acknowledging, of course, that the abusers are but a very small % of clerics)? The Vatican’s long record of tolerating and covering up sexual abuse is a scandal of breathtaking proportions.

  • “the church is a business with vast financial holdings and considerable political influence, and they would like to continue to operate free from public scrutiny or accountability.”

    Exactly. Also what edddoerr said.

    Lots of people are looking at the man behind the curtain and the Vatican doesn’t like it. However, as long as the money keeps rolling in, nothing will change.