Scandal-hit Pope stands by his right-hand man
Pope Benedict and his deputy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, regarded as the chief target of a campaign of leaks, appeared side by side at the start of a visit to Milan that is unlikely to provide much respite.
In his speech, the pontiff made no reference to last week's scandal when his butler was arrested for stealing his private documents.
Many insiders believe the butler is merely a scapegoat in a power struggle between Bertone's allies and enemies.
Earlier this week, Benedict renewed his trust in his "closest collaborators", which many interpreted as a gesture of support for Bertone, the Vatican's powerful secretary of state, or prime minister.
The publication of embarrassing details about men Bertone has appointed or moved out, and projects he has promoted or opposed, suggests a concerted effort to force him out of his post.
Some 15,000 policemen have been deployed for the three-day trip to keep protesters at bay.
The visit comes at a difficult time for the pontiff and the crisis is unlikely to be far from his mind or those of pilgrims and onlookers.
Over the past 10 days, the head of the Vatican bank was fired, the pope's butler Paolo Gabriele was arrested, and a book was published alleging cronyism and corruption in a Vatican riven by conflict between the various plotting cardinals.
Vatican police are scouring the city-state for more informants, but they shifted focus yesterday to their more normal task of protecting the pontiff during his trips.