Vatican City: Buffeted by sex abuse scandals,
the Vatican kept up its stiff defence of Pope Benedict XVI
Sunday, hailing him at the start of Easter Mass as an unfailing
and courageous leader of a flock that takes no heed of "petty
The tribute by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the
College of Cardinals, was an unusual departure from Easter
ceremony traditions in St Peter`s Square.
It underscored the Vatican`s determination to defend
Benedict from accusations that he was part of a culture of
secrecy toward handling sex accusations involving clergy
during the time before he became pope.
Benedict looked weary as he listened to Sodano`s speech.
A canopy on the central steps of St Peter`s Basilica shielded
him from light rain.
Sodano said that, despite the rain, the atmosphere should
be considered sunny.
"With this spirit today we rally close around you,
successor to (St) Peter, bishop of Rome, the unfailing rock of
the Holy church of Christ, to sing with you the Alleluia of
Christian faith and hope," Sodano told the pope.
"Holy Father, on your side is the people of God, who do
not let themselves be influenced by the petty gossip of the
moment, by the trials which sometimes buffet the community of