Pope Benedict XVI’s former butler Paolo Gabriele has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing secret documents from the Vatican.

Presiding judge Giuseppe Dalla Torre gave the former butler three years but immediately cut the sentence to 18 months on the grounds of service rendered to the Catholic Church in the past and his apology to the pope for betraying him.

Earlier on Saturday, Gabriele had insisted that he’s no thief and that he leaked the pope’s private correspondence to a journalist out of a “visceral love” for the church and its pope.

Defence lawyer Cristiana Arru insisted in closing arguments that only photocopies, not original documents, were taken from the Apostolic Palace, disputing testimony from the pope’s secretary that original letters were in the evidence seized from Gabriele’s home.

She admitted Gabriele’s gesture was “condemnable” but said it was a misappropriation, not a theft, and that Gabriele should serve no time.