A Vatican court has found Pope Benedict XVI’s former butler guilty of stealing sensitive documents and has been sentenced to house arrest awaiting a Papal pardon.

The court delivered its verdict after a two-hour deliberation on the last day of the trial.

The prosecution had asked for a three-year sentence.

The defence asked the court to reduce the charges from "aggravated theft" to "misappropriation" and for him to be freed.

Paolo Gabriele had earlier told the court in his last appeal that he had acted exclusively out of deep, "visceral" love for the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope.

The head of the three-judge panel, speaking "In the name of Holiness," said Gabriele had abused the pontiff's trust in him.

The judge said he had given Gabriele a lighter sentence than the three years sought by the prosecution because he had no previous criminal record.

Gabriele's lawyer told reporters he would be returned to house arrest in the Vatican for the time being.

She said she would decide after she hears the court’s formal explanation of its verdict whether to file an appeal.