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.
Five people, including two journalists and a top priest or monsignor, have been charged by the Vatican over the leaking and publication of secret documents.
The leaked documents were cited in two books, by journalists Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi, alleging misspending and corruption at the Vatican.
The journalists deny claims that they exerted pressure to obtain information.
Two members of a papal commission advising on economic reform, and an assistant, were also charged.
Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda, and fellow commission member, public relations expert Francesca Chaouqui, were arrested early in November.
Merchants in the Temple by Gianluigi Nuzzi and Avarice by Emiliano Fittipaldi, included details of alleged corruption, theft and uncontrolled spending in the Vatican.
In a statement, the Holy See said magistrates “notified the accused and their lawyers of the charges filed… for the unlawful disclosure of information and confidential documents”.
Francesca Chaouqui was released shortly after her arrest after pledging to co-operate with authorities. Monsignor Lucio Valejo Balda remains in a Vatican cell.
Both, along with assistant Nicola Maio, are accused of forming “a brotherhood of crime” and stealing documents, the Vatican said.
The two journalists have been charged with exerting pressure to obtain the information.
Emiliano Fittipaldi told local media he was “stunned” by the decision.
“Maybe I’m naive but I believed they would investigate those I denounced for criminal activity, not the person that revealed the crimes,” he said.
“I understand they are seriously embarrassed in the Vatican over the things in my book, especially because they could not deny any of it. But I didn’t expect a criminal trial.”
Gianluigi Nuzzi told Reuters he had “never applied pressure on anyone”. He will discuss whether to attend a November 24 hearing with his lawyers.
Reporters without Borders issued a statement saying the journalists had “just exercised their right to provide information in the public interest and should not be treated as criminals in a country that supposedly respects media freedom”.
If convicted, all five could be jailed for up to eight years.