The German flag is seen as Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 30. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI voiced regret for the turmoil surrounding the recent publication of leaked Vatican documents, but thanked the vast majority of people who work at the Vatican for their dedication and fidelity.

Speaking at the end of his weekly general audience May 30, the pope said much of the media coverage of the leak of private letters and of the arrest May 23 of his personal assistant has been exaggerated and “completely gratuitous, and has gone far beyond the facts, offering an image of the Holy See that does not correspond to reality.”

Pope Benedict said that while the scandal has saddened him, “it has never weakened my firm certainty that, despite human weakness, difficulties and trials, the church is guided by the Holy Spirit and will never be without the Lord’s help to support it in its journey.” He offered “encouragement to my closest collaborators and all those who, each day with fidelity and a spirit of sacrifice and in silence, help me fulfill my ministry.”

The pope also offered his prayers for the people of Italy’s Emilia Romagna region after a second earthquake in nine days caused at least 15 deaths and seriously damaged many buildings, including several churches.

“With my prayers and affection, I am close to the injured and those who are suffering difficulties, and I express my deepest sympathy to the families of those who lost their lives,” the pope said.

The earthquake May 29 brought death when roofs, walls and even church bell towers came crashing down. Hundreds were sent to area hospitals and thousands were left homeless. A quake May 20 had left five people dead and has been blamed for undermining the stability of many of the buildings that fell nine days later.

After the first quake, Pope Benedict sent close to $125,000 to the region’s dioceses to help them assist victims.

During his main talk during the audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict continued his series of talks about prayer in the letters of St. Paul.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, prayer is a personal encounter with God, the pope said. It begins with God’s “yes” to the creatures he loves and should end with the believer’s “Amen,” or yes to God.

God’s love consoles believers in times of tribulation and gives them the strength to console others. Like St. Paul, who was “afflicted with every type of tribulation,” each Christian should know that there is never a moment when God turns his back or moves away, the pope said.

“Dear brothers and sisters, our lives and our journeys often are marked by difficulty, misunderstandings and suffering — we all know this — but through a faithful relationship with God, through constant daily prayer, we can concretely experience the consolation of God. This is a strength of our faith,” he said.

Despite human failings and infidelity, God is always faithful and continually reaches out to each person with love and support, the pope said. “God’s way of acting — far different from our own — gives us consolation, strength and hope.”

“There is no one who is not reached by God’s faithful love, which is able to reach even those who continue to respond with a ‘no'” and try to turn their backs on God, he said. “God is waiting for us, is always seeking us out, wants to welcome us into communion, forgive us and give us all fullness of life, hope and peace.”

— By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service