Pope Francis apologises after being quoted using vulgar term about gay men

Pope Francis apologised after he was quoted using a vulgar term to reaffirm the Catholic Church's ban on gay priests

Pope Francis has apologised after he was quoted using a vulgar term about gay men to reaffirm the Catholic Church's ban on gay priests.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni issued a statement acknowledging the media storm that erupted around Francis' comments, which were delivered behind closed doors to Italian bishops on May 20.

On Monday Italian media quoted unnamed Italian bishops in reporting that Francis jokingly used the term "f*****tness" while speaking in Italian during the encounter.

He had used the term in reaffirming the Vatican's ban on allowing gay men to enter seminaries and be ordained priests.

Mr Bruni said Francis was aware of the reports and recalled that the Argentine pope, who has made outreach to LGBTQ+ Catholics a hallmark of his papacy, has long insisted there was "room for everyone" in the Catholic Church.

"The pope never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he extends his apologies to those who were offended by the use of a term that was reported by others," Mr Bruni said. Francis was addressing an assembly of the Italian bishops conference, which recently approved a new document outlining training for Italian seminarians. The document, which hasn't been published pending review by the Holy See, reportedly sought to open some wiggle room in the Vatican's absolute ban on gay priests.

Italian is not Pope Francis's mother tongue. Credit: AP

The Vatican ban was articulated in a 2005 document from the Congregation for Catholic Education, and later repeated in a subsequent document in 2016, which said the church cannot admit to seminaries or ordain men who "practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called gay culture." Francis strongly reaffirmed that position in his May 20 meeting with the Italian bishops, joking that "there is already an air of f*****tness" in seminaries, the Italian media reported, after initial reporting from gossip site Dagospia.

New Ways Ministry, which advocates for LGBTQ+ Catholics, welcomed Francis’ apology and said it confirmed that the “use of the slur was a careless colloquialism”.

But the group’s director Francis DeBernardo questioned the underlying content of the pope’s comments and the overall ban on gays in the priesthood.

“Without a clarification, his words will be interpreted as a blanket ban on accepting any gay man to a seminary,” DeBernardo said in a release, asking for a clearer statement on Francis’ views about gay priests “so many of whom faithfully serve the people of God each day.”

Andrea Rubera, a spokesperson for Paths of Hope, an Italian association of LGBTQ+ Christians, said he was incredulous when he first read about the pope’s comments, and then sad when no denial came from the Vatican.

It showed, he said, that the pope and the Vatican still have a “limited view” of the reality of LGBTQ+ people.

“We hope, once again, that the time will come to undertake a discussion in the church toward a deepening of the LGBT issue, especially from the experience of the people themselves,” he said. Italian is not Francis' mother tongue language, and the Argentine pope has made linguistic gaffes in the past that raised eyebrows. The 87-year-old Argentine pope often speaks informally, jokes using slang and even reportedly curses in private.

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