Pope hailed as 'unfailing' leader



Pope hailed as `unfailing` leader 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 gossip".

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 believers."

PTI