Pope Benedict XVI's former butler declared himself innocent Tuesday of a charge of aggravated theft in connection with leaked documents -- but said he had abused the pope's trust.
Paolo Gabriele has previously admitted taking hundreds of secret papers from the pope's personal apartment and passing them to an Italian journalist.
Gabriele asserted his innocence Tuesday when he was asked by his lawyer about the theft charge, according to a pool of selected journalists allowed into the courtroom. The Vatican penal system does not require a formal plea.
But, he said: "I feel guilty of having betrayed the trust that the Holy Father gave me."
The former butler added that he felt he was "the closest layman to the pope."
Corruption claims resulting from the publication of a book based on the leaked materials rocked the Catholic Church hierarchy and could even affect who becomes the next pope.
Testifying Tuesday, Gabriele told the presiding judge, Giuseppe Dalla Torre, that he had received no money in exchange for the papers, according to the journalist pool.
The accused said he did not believe he was the only person to give "news" to the press over the years, but also said that he had "no accomplices."
Computer technician Claudio Sciarpelletti, who worked in the Vatican's secretariat of state, is accused of complicity in the crime. The court will try him separately, once the former butler's trial is finished.
If convicted of aggravated theft, Gabriele could face up to eight years in an Italian prison, although it is possible the pontiff could choose to pardon him. Sciarpelletti would face a shorter prison term of only a few months if found guilty.