VATICAN CITY — The Vatican's secretary of state says Pope Francis is "serene" despite the "bitterness and concern" in the Vatican over accusations that he covered up for an American ex-cardinal accused of sexual misconduct.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin says accusations from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano created "great pain" within the Vatican.

But he said: "Pope Francis is a grace, including with these things that obviously create such bitterness and concern, but he has the ability to maintain a serene approach."

In an interview Thursday with Vatican Insider, a website close to Francis, Parolin declined to comment on the contents of Vigano's claims, repeating Francis' invitation to read it and judge.

Given that Vigano worked for him as a diplomat, Parolin said: "I hope that we all work in search of truth and justice."