Pope Francis on journalism
Pope Francis granted a Christmas-time clemency to a Vatican whistleblower Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

Pope Francis granted a Christmas-time clemency to a Vatican whistleblower responsible for the so-called Vatileaks II, a leak of financially-sensitive documents in 2013.

The pope pardoned Spanish priest Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda, who was serving an 18-month sentence in a Vatican jail, as he had served more than half of his time. According to a statement from the Vatican, Vallejo would be under "conditional freedom" for the remain of his sentence, for which he is expected to head back to Spain.

Vallejo was convicted of leaking documents that he had compiled as part of a commission established by Pope Francis to enhance transparency of the embattled Vatican finances.

Vallejo blamed the PR officer for the committee, Francesca Chaouqui, who got a 10-month suspended sentence, for pressuring him to share the material with two journalists, who wrote two books on the subject.

The two journalists were also controversially put on trial, but the Vatican court ultimately declared it had no jurisdiction to prosecute them.

The trial was dubbed Vatileaks II as it followed the conviction of Benedict XVI's butler in 2012, who was found guilty of the first "Vatileaks" of confidential documents revealing mismanagement, corruption and bitter power struggles inside the Holy See.

Another famous whistleblower took interest in the issue. Edward Snowden, who had asked Barack Obama to pardon him, retweeted the news of the papal act, writing "Well would you look at that".

Pope Francis' gesture echoes that of Pope Benedict XVI, who also pardoned his whistleblowing butler in 2012. Publishing confidential information is a crime in the Vatican, punishable by up to eight years in prison.