Pope Benedict XVI today referred to the leaking of confidential Vatican documents that led last week to the arrest of his valet, saying recent events had caused him “sadness” but that he had confidence in his closest aides.

The Holy Father also criticized “entirely gratuitous” reports that have gone “beyond the facts”, presenting a “completely unrealistic image” of the Holy See.

In unscripted remarks at the end of today's general audience, the Pope said:

"The events of recent days involving the Curia and my collaborators have brought sadness to my heart. However, I have never lost my firm certainty that, despite the weakness of man, despite difficulties and trials, the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and the Lord will ensure she never lacks the help she needs to support her on her journey.

"Nonetheless there has been increasing conjecture, amplified by the communications media, which is entirely gratuitous, goes beyond the facts and presents a completely unrealistic image of the Holy See. Thus, I wish to reiterate my trust and encouragement to my closest collaborators and to all those people who every day, in silent faithlessness and with a spirit of sacrifice, help me carry out my ministry".

The Pope’s expression of trust in his closest aides is particularly important given increasing speculation that Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, may have to resign over the “Vatileaks” affair.

And with plenty of rumour still surrounding this crisis, the Holy Father’s criticism of the media was to some extent expected. A frenzy of speculation and comment has accompanied this affair from the beginning, and although many reports have proven accurate, they have also contained plenty of unsubstantiated claims, often reputed to be well sourced but then dismissed soon afterwards by Holy See spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi as untrue.  The intrigue has also been rich fodder for any agencies with an anti-Church agenda. 

Fittingly, the Holy Father’s catechesis this morning, part of a series on Christian prayer, referred to St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians and the need “not to allow ourselves to be overcome by tribulations and difficulties.” Those close to the Pope have said he has remained “serene” during the crisis, even though he has suffered from what one close aide described as a “brutal act.” Yesterday, Fr. Lombardi said the Pope is treating these events as a “test”, not as a “tragedy”.

In today’s catechesis, summarized below, the Pope essentially explains how he is able to retain that inner peace in the midst of trial:

“During his general audience this morning, which was celebrated in St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father continued a series of catecheses on Christian prayer according to St. Paul who, the Pope said, saw it as "a real individual encounter with God the Father, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit. This dialogue comprehends the faithful 'yes' on the part of God and the trusting 'amen of the faithful".

In his explanation of this relationship Benedict XVI focused on the Second Letter to the Corinthians, where the Apostle writes: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God".

Comfort, the Pope explained, is not to be understood as mere consolation, but as an "exhortation not to allow ourselves to be overcome by tribulations and difficulties. We are invited to experience every situation in unity with Christ, Who takes all the suffering and sin of the world upon Himself in order to bring light, hope and redemption. Thus He enables us, in our turn, to console those who are afflicted by any kind of suffering". Profound union with Christ in prayer, and confidence in His presence, predispose us to share the sufferings of our brothers and sisters.

"Our life and our Christian journey are often marked by difficulty, misunderstandings and pain", the Holy Father went on. "In a faithful relationship with the Lord, in constant daily prayer, we are able to feel the consolation that comes from God. This strengthens our faith because it means that we enjoy a concrete experience of God's 'yes' to man ... in Christ, the faithfulness of His love which went so far as to give His Son on the cross".

The faith, a gratuitous gift of God, is rooted in His fidelity, "in His 'yes' which leads us to understand how to live our lives while loving Him and our neighbour. The entire history of salvation is a progressive revelation of this fidelity of God's, despite our own infidelity and our constant denials".

In this context the Pope pointed out that God's way of acting is quite different from that of man. "Faced with conflict in human relationships, often even within the family, we tend not to persevere in gratuitous love, which requires commitment and sacrifice. However God never loses patience with us and, in His immense mercy, precedes us always and comes out to meet us. ... On the cross He offers us the measure of His love, which is not calculated and has no limit". Such faithful love can wait even for those who reject it. God always seeks man and wishes to welcome him into His communion, to give him fullness of life, hope and peace.

Onto the 'yes' of God is grafted the 'amen' of the Church, the response of faith with which we conclude our prayers and which expresses our own 'yes' to God's initiative. "In our prayers we are called to say 'yes' to God, to respond with an 'amen' which is an expression of adherence, of faithfulness to Him with all of our lives. But we can never achieve such faithfulness by our own powers, it is not only the result of our daily efforts; it comes from God and is founded on the 'yes' of Christ. ... We must enter into Christ's 'yes' by following God's will so that, with St. Paul, we too can affirm that it is not we who live, but Christ Himself Who lives in us. Then the 'amen' of our individual and community prayers will embrace and transform all of our lives". (VIS)