* Pope says coverage of leaks scandal is "gratuitous"
* Makes first reference to deepening scandal
* Butler still held in Vatican police station
By Barry Moody
VATICAN CITY, May 30 Pope Benedict on Wednesday
angrily denounced what he called false media coverage of a leaks
scandal shaking the Vatican and expressed full trust in close
aides under fire over the worst crisis in his papacy.
In unusually blunt remarks at the end of a general audience
in St Peter's Square where he repeatedly referred to personal
suffering, the 85-year-old pontiff said recent events had caused
sadness in his heart.
"Suggestions have multiplied, amplified by some media which
are totally gratuitous and which have gone well beyond the
facts, offering an image of the Holy See which does not
correspond to reality," Benedict said of a scandal that has seen
his butler arrested for stealing secret documents.
Referring to senior Vatican aides, who Italian media accuse
of waging a war of leaks as part of an internal power struggle,
"I would like to renew my trust and my encouragement to my
closest collaborators and all those who every day, with faith, a
spirit of sacrifice and in silence help me to perform my
The pope's first public reference to the scandal underlined
the pain he is suffering over a string of leaks and allegations
of widespread Vatican corruption.
That pain was also reflected in his main address to
thousands of pilgrims gathered in bright sunshine in front of St
Peter's basilica, where he spoke at length about the trials,
tribulations and suffering caused even by those closest to you.
"Our life and our Christian path are often marked by
difficulties, incomprehension and sufferings," he said.
The pontiff told pilgrims that all people must seek
consolation in their faith and persevere in the face of
"conflicts in human relations, often from within one's own
The Vatican has denounced the leaking of documents from the
pontiff's study as a brutal personal attack. A powerful group of
cardinals are hunting for others inside the Holy See believed
involved in the scandal.
The arrest of butler Paolo Gabriele, 46, was the climax of a
tough past week for the 85-year-old pontiff, which also
included the abrupt dismissal of the head of the Vatican bank
and publication of a book filled with leaks that alleged
conspiracies among feuding cardinals, the "princes of the
TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS
In a long passage of his address devoted to St Paul's
epistle to the Corinthians, Benedict repeatedly referred to
tribulations and difficulties, saying "Christ...makes us capable
of consoling ourselves from every kind of affliction."
On Tuesday, the third most senior figure in the Roman
Catholic Church said in an interview in the Vatican newspaper
L'Osservatore Romano that the publication of leaked documents in
a recent book by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi was a crime.
It was the first time the Vatican's official paper had
reported on the arrest of the pope's butler a week ago and
reflected the anger in the Holy See over what is seen as a
betrayal of Benedict.
The newspaper also said the butler had been in possession
of "a large number" of the pope's private documents, the first
time the Holy See has come close to publicly quantifying how
much confidential material Gabriele had in his apartment.
Gabriele, who was one of the people closest to the pope, is
still being held in a "safe room" in the Vatican's police
station. He will face Vatican magistrates again later this week
or next when formal hearings start.
The Vatican says a powerful cardinals commission
investigating the scandal, "can decide to hear anyone they think
might have information in this case".
Several people have already been "interrogated", spokesman
Father Federico Lombardi said.
Lombardi denied any cardinals were suspects in a scandal
that has rocked the very top of the Church since Gabriele's
arrest a week ago and caused a frenzy in Italian media.
While denying reports that the butler was merely a pawn in a
larger power struggle among clerics in the Holy See, the Vatican
has acknowledged that the affair will test the faith of
Catholics in their Church.
Documents leaked to journalists over several months allege
corruption in the Church's vast financial dealings with Italian
business including infrastructure contracts awarded at inflated
In one example, the Vatican was said to have paid 550,000
euros for a traditional nativity scene in St Peter's Square,
thought to be at least double its real value.
Italian newspapers, quoting other whistleblowers in the
Vatican, said the arrested butler was a scapegoat doing the
bidding of more powerful figures and was punished because the
Church did not dare implicate cardinals behind the leaks.
The leaks scandal has touched the Secretariat of State led
by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the pope's powerful right-hand
man, with Italian media saying it involves a struggle between
his allies and enemies, reminiscent of Renaissance conspiracies
inside the Vatican or a Dan Brown novel.
Gabriele's lawyers say their client will cooperate fully
with investigators, raising the possibility that he could name
Critics of the pope say a lack of strong leadership has
opened the door to infighting among his powerful aides - and
potentially to the corruption alleged in the leaked
The Vatican's announcement of the arrest of the butler came
a day after the president of the Vatican bank, Italian Ettore
Gotti Tedeschi, stepped down following a no confidence vote by
its board of external financial experts, who come from Germany,
Spain, the United States and Italy.
Gotti Tedeschi's abrupt departure was also seen as a blow to
Bertone, who as secretary of state was instrumental in bringing
him in from Spain's Banco Santander to run the Vatican bank in
(Editing by Jon Boyle)