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Apr 4, 2010 3:05 PM

Pope hailed as 'unfailing' leader at Easter Mass

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Although Pope Benedict has remained silent Sunday about the sex abuse cover-up allegations plaguing the Roman Catholic church, the controversy hasn't been ignored.

At the start of Mass attended by tens of thousands in St. Peter's Square, the dean of the College of Cardinals said the pope was the target of "petty gossip." Cardinal Angelo Sodano said Benedict has shown "unfailing" leadership and courage.

The defense was part of a Vatican campaign to defend the pope's moral authority amid the widening scandal.

Benedict looked weary as he listened to Sodano's speech at the start of Mass.

In his "Urbi et Orbi" message, Benedict didn't address the abuse issue. Instead, he spoke of what he called the "trials and sufferings" of Christians in Iraq and Pakistan, and urged hope for earthquake survivors in Haiti and Chile.

The Mass was the highlight of a heavy schedule of public appearances by the pope during Holy Week.

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