(Pope Benedict XVI waves to the faithful as he arrives at the weekly audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 30, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)

Pope Benedict on Wednesday angrily denounced what he called false media coverage of a leaks scandal shaking the Vatican and expressed full trust in close aides under fire over the worst crisis in his papacy.

In unusually blunt remarks at the end of a general audience in St Peter’s Square where he repeatedly referred to personal suffering, the 85-year-old pontiff said recent events had caused sadness in his heart.

“Suggestions have multiplied, amplified by some media which are totally gratuitous and which have gone well beyond the facts, offering an image of the Holy See which does not correspond to reality,” Benedict said of a scandal that has seen his butler arrested for stealing secret documents.

Referring to senior Vatican aides, who Italian media accuse of waging a war of leaks as part of an internal power struggle, Benedict added: