The pope's butler Paolo Gabriele, sitting in the wood-trimmed courtroom of the Vatican tribunal (AP)
Vatican police found thousands of documents hidden inside the home of the pope's butler, including originals signed by the pontiff with indications they should be destroyed.
Officers gave evidence in the trial of Paolo Gabriele, the pope's once-trusted butler who faces four years in prison if convicted of aggravated theft for stealing papal documents and leaking them to a journalist.
The final four witnesses were heard and closing arguments are set for Saturday, when a verdict by the three-judge Vatican panel is expected.
Inspector Silvano Carli said that of the hundreds of thousands of documents seized from Gabriele's home, about 1,000 were of interest since they were original or photocopied Vatican documents.
Some documents came from the pope's office, some carried the processing codes of the secretariat of state, others originated in various Vatican congregations "and some documents concerned the total privacy and private life of the Holy Father," said police officer Stefano De Santis.
He said some of the originals carried the pope's handwriting with a note to destroy them written in German. Some were reproduced in journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi's book "His Holiness: Pope Benedict XVI's secret papers," he said.
The rest of the documentation concerned esoteric religious issues and academic research into Freemasonry, Christianity, Buddhism, yoga and politicians, as well as the Vatican Bank, the officers said.
Prosecutors have said Gabriele, a devout 46-year-old father of three, confessed to leaking copies of the documents because he wanted to expose the "evil and corruption" in the church to help put it back on the right path.
Gabriele admits he betrayed the pope's trust, but he nevertheless pleaded innocent to the charge of aggravated theft.
The security breach within the pope's own entourage has been one of the most damaging scandals of his seven-year papacy.