The Vatican ordered five people, including two Italian journalists and a high-ranking monsignor to stand trial for leaking and publishing confidential documents, as the latest incident in “Vatileaks” scandal which hit the papacy.
The trial resulted from the publication of two recent books, by journalists Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi, that revealed alleged mismanagement, theft and corruption at the Vatican where Pope Francis faces rejection from the old guard to his reform agenda.
The president of the Vatican court declared the time of the trial that the first hearing will start on Tuesday at 0930 GMT.
The Vatican has accused the journalists of trying to financially benefit themselves from receiving leaked documents. However, the two journalists denied accusations that they applied pressure to acquire information.
Nuzzi said on Saturday that he "never applied pressure on anyone" and would discuss with his lawyers whether or not to attend Tuesday's hearing. He said his lawyers had told him he could be jailed for 4-8 years if convicted.
"The Italian constitution guarantees the right to information and expression but the Vatican is a state with no right to information," he said.
"If they think they can silence me they are following the wrong path, because after me other reporters will tell the facts and the information will not stop."
Both journalists were members of Pope Francis’ commission that he set up shortly after his election in March 2013 to advise him on economic and bureaucratic reforms in the Holy See.
Prosecutors said three Vatican officials, including a high-ranking monsignor, formed “an organised criminal association” in an attempt of “divulging information and documents concerning the fundamental interests of the Holy see and the Senate”.
Fittipaldi told local media that he was “stunned” by the decision.
"Maybe I'm naive but I believed they would investigate those I denounced for criminal activity, not the person that revealed the crimes," he said.
"I understand they are seriously embarrassed in the Vatican over the things in my book, especially because they could not deny any of it. But I didn't expect a criminal trial."
It has been the latest biggest internal scandals to hit Francis’ papacy. The scandal reminded of the “Vatileaks” furore that preceded former Pope Benedict’s resignation in 2013.
The two officials arrested earlier this month, Spanish Monsignor Angel Lucio Vallejo Balda, who was number two at the Vatican's Prefecture for Economic Affairs, and Francesca Chaouqui, a public relations expert.
Both of them were members of Pope Francis’ commission that he set up shortly after his election in March 2013 to advise him on economic and bureaucratic reforms in the Holy See.