TODAY   |  April 05, 2010

Cleric calls sex abuse criticism ‘petty gossip’

Cardinal Sodano, dean of the Vatican’s College of Cardinals, defended Pope Benedict XVI during Easter Sunday Mass, saying that Catholics “won’t be influenced by the petty gossip of the moment.” NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

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>>> avoid drowning while they slept .

>>> latest priest sex scandal , anne thompson is live for us in rome this morning. anne, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, natalie. pope benedict has left vatican city for his country retreat. though he didn't say a word about the crisis at yesterday's easter mass, the word said about him have fed the controversy. the words came from the dean of the college of cardinals , angelo sodano . just before the first reading, cardinal sodano went to the microphone to defend the pope against increasing criticism that he didn't do enough to stop priests from sexually abusing children. sodano told the pontiff the people are with you and won't be influenced by the petty gossip of the moment. the pope appeared to welcome the words. the scandal dominated easter services in europe and the u.s. in ireland, protesters hung children's shoes outside dublin's cathedral and confronted the archbishop. while pledging to protect the most vulnerable.

>> i promise you, it has changed and changed radically. there is now no hiding place for abusers in the church .

>> reporter: the traditions of easter did come for those in munich, where the pope was once archbishop. in california , manny vegas stayed away from easter mass. abused as an altar boy, he now draws his strength from family and friends .

>> i haven't left the church . the church has left me.

>> reporter: a survivor's group says their stories are not petty gossip and it called on the pope to take concrete action to stop child abuse . natalie?

>> anne thompson live in rome with the update. thank you, anne.

>>> picture perfect liftoff for the