Five people, including two journalists, who are accused of leaking and publishing Vatican secret documents revealing mismanagement in the Holy See, are set to go on trial.
The journalists, Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi, who cited the documents in two books will face the tribunal, along with two members of a papal commission and an assistant.
If convicted, they could be jailed for up to eight years.
Media groups have condemned the trial. One of the journalists charged called it “an attack on press freedom”.
Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi carried allegations of the misuse of charitable and other funds in their books Merchants in the Temple and Avarice.
The allegations included the lavish refurbishment of apartments for cardinals and others.
The three accused of leaking the documents are a Spanish priest and an Italian public relations expert who sat on a commission which advised the Pope on economic reform, along with the priest’s secretary.
Media groups have urged the Vatican to drop the charges.
Nina Ognianova, of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said: “Journalists should be allowed to carry out their role as watchdog and investigate alleged wrongdoing without fear of repercussions.”
The journalists involved called the trial “Kafka-esque”, saying neither they or their lawyers had seen details of the charges.
Emilian Fittipaldi said: “This is a trial against freedom of the press. In no other part of the world, at least in the part of the world that considers itself democratic, is there a crime of a scoop, a crime of publishing news.”
The three accused of leaking the documents are Monsignor Angelo Lucio Vallejo Balda and his assistant Nicola Maio, along with PR expert Francesca Chaouqui.
The special reform commission they were serving was set up by Pope Francis to tackle the Vatican’s financial holdings and propose reforms to improve cash flow to the poor.