Pope Benedict XVI on Monday urged priests to be messengers of Christ's "victory over evil," but again made no direct mention of the sex abuse scandal swirling around the Catholic Church.

In an address from the papal retreat in Castel Gandolfo outside Rome, Benedict said Christ supports the church "amid difficulty."

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Pope Benedict XVI looks up during the Regina Coeli prayer from the window of his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, in the hills south of Rome, on Easter Monday.

Benedict said all Christians should be like messengers of Christ's "victory over evil and death, the bearers of his divine love" — a message that he said applied especially to priests.

The Pope is coming under intense pressure to specifically acknowledge that the church's past practice of covering up abuse by clergy was wrong. Benedict himself has been caught up in the controversy, with reports saying he failed to adequately protect children from predators in the clergy when he was archbishop of Munich. 

The Vatican has vociferously defended the Pope from such criticism, calling the accusations now dominating media coverage "petty gossip" and a smear campaign aimed at the Pope.

On Easter Sunday before thousands of worshippers in St. Peter's Square, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, heartily endorsed Benedict's conduct and hailed his "unfailing" leadership.

"Holy Father, on your side are the people of God, who do not let themselves be influenced by the petty gossip of the moment, by the trials that sometimes strike at the community of believers," Sodano said. 

After a busy week of Easter ceremonies at the Vatican, the 82-year-old pontiff went to the Castel Gandolfo retreat for rest. 

During his Easter Sunday address, Benedict denounced drug trafficking in Latin America and spoke of the suffering of earthquake victims in Haiti and Chile. But victims of past clergy abuse who'd hoped the pontiff would have a few words for them were disappointed. 

With files from The Associated Press