VATICAN CITY -- For the first time since his butler was arrested on suspicion of stealing papal correspondence, Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday publicly discussed the scandal churning inside the Vatican, admitting “sadness in my heart” while accusing some in the media of painting a false picture of the Holy See.
The pope used his regular Wednesday audience in St. Peter’s Square to pledged his “trust and encouragement” to his closest aides, referring evidently to those who have been depicted in leaked documents as being embroiled in a power struggle in the scandal now dubbed “VatiLeaks.”
In front of several thousand people gathered in the sunny square, the pope said, "Rumors have multiplied, and been exaggerated by some media in a gratuitous manner” that has given “an unrealistic image of the Holy See.”
He said he wanted to “renew by trust and encouragement in my closest advisers and to all those who in silence and with a spirit of sacrifice help me daily in carrying out by ministry.”
Many of the letters put the pope’s second in command, Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in an unfavorable light, and Vatican analysts in Italian media have said he is at the heart of a conflict within the church leadership.
The pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested when a horde of confidential papal documents was allegedly found in his apartment in Vatican City.
He is being held by Vatican police and has been charged with aggravated theft. He is being represented by two lawyers who are authorized to work within the Vatican courts, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters.
Lombardi told reporters Tuesday that formal interrogation of Gabriele by a Vatican judge would begin later this week at the earliest. In the meantime, Lombardi said, the Vatican police were questioning many others. But he denied reports that cardinals had been implicated.
-- Sarah Delaney
Photo: Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives for his weekly general audience on Wednesday at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. Credit: Andreas Solaro / AFP/Getty Images