He sat alone on a bench on one side of the courtroom, following the proceedings impassively. During a break in the hearing, he chatted with his attorney, Cristiana Arru, and greeted journalists with a nod and a smile as he entered and exited.
Arru raised a series of objections at the start of the hearing, only some of which were accepted by the court. One concerned two jailhouse conversations Gabriele had with the head of the Vatican police force without his lawyers present. The judges declared both inadmissible. The content isn't public.
Arru also sought access to the report of a commission of cardinals appointed by the pope to investigate the leaks alongside Vatican magistrates. The court denied the request.
The attorney for co-defendant Claudio Sciarpelletti successfully petitioned to have his client's trial separated from that of Gabriele. Sciarpelletti wasn't in the court Saturday and his trial date wasn't set.
Neither Gabriele's wife nor any of his three children attended the hearing. Space for the public was limited; eight of the 18 seats were taken up by the journalists who followed the proceedings and then briefed the rest of the Vatican press corps afterward.
The courtroom itself was spare, with wood paneling along the walls, a gilded crest of the Holy See in the ceiling, a photograph of Benedict over the prosecutor's chair and a crucifix over the chair of the presiding judge. It's located in a four-story palazzo tucked behind St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican gardens.
Security was relaxed, with the guards at the tribunal entrance mostly concerned that none of the press or public brought in any recording devices: They even checked pens to make sure they couldn't record, and sequestered cellphones into safe boxes. No television or still cameras were allowed, except for Vatican media, which filmed the first moments at the start of the hearing.
Given the content of the leaks and the Vatican's penchant for secrecy, the fact that the trial was open to the public and media might seem unusual. In fact, such trials in the Vatican's civil and penal tribunal are routinely public. They just don't happen very often or attract much attention. The Vatican's ecclesial courts on the other hand, which handle marriage annulments, clerical sex abuse cases and other matters of church law, remain firmly off-limits to outsiders.
In some ways, the willingness of the Vatican to proceed with the trial at all is an indication of its efforts to show new transparency in its inner workings. Benedict could have pardoned Gabriele as soon as he was arrested or charged, precluding any trial from getting off the ground. Instead he allowed the trial to go ahead, evidence of the "courage" the Vatican is showing to be more transparent, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi has said.
He called such transparency unprecedented for the Vatican and likened it to the Holy See's recent decision to submit its financial institutions to outside scrutiny by the Council of Europe's Moneyval committee.