Pope Francis apologises for using derogatory term for gay men

Pope Francis apologises for using derogatory term for gay men

Pope Francis has apologised after he was reported to have used a highly derogatory term towards the LGBT community in a closed-door meeting with Italian bishops.The Vatican on Tuesday said the pontiff did not intend to use homophobic language and apologised for an offence caused.

La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera, Italy’s largest circulation dailies, had earlier quoted the pope as saying seminaries, or priesthood colleges, are already too full of “frociaggine”, a vulgar term, during a behind-closed-doors meeting with Italian bishops.

La Repubblica attributed its story to several unspecified sources, while Corriere said it was backed up by a few unnamed bishops, who suggested the 87-year-old pope, as an Argentine, might have not realised that the Italian term he used was offensive.

Political gossip website Dagospia was the first to report on the alleged incident, said to have happened on May 20, when the Italian Bishops’ Conference opened a four-day assembly with a non-public meeting with the pontiff.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni on Tuesday issued a statement acknowledging the media storm that erupted about Francis's comments.

Mr Bruni said Francis was aware of the reports and recalled that the pope 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," he said.

Pope Francis has so far been credited with leading the Roman Catholic Church into taking a more welcoming approach towards the LGBT community.

Pope Francis (AP)
Pope Francis (AP)

In 2013, at the start of his papacy, he famously said: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”.

Last year, he allowed priests to bless members of same-sex couples, triggering substantial conservative backlash.

Nevertheless, he delivered a similar message on gay seminarians - minus the reported swear word - when he met Italian bishops in 2018, telling them to carefully vet priesthood applicants and reject any suspected homosexuals.

In a 2005 document, released under Francis's late predecessor Benedict XVI, the Vatican said the Church could admit into the priesthood those who had clearly overcome homosexual tendencies for at least three years.

The document said practicing homosexuals and those with “deep-seated” gay tendencies and those who “support the so-called gay culture” should be barred.

The Spanish-speaking Pope’s defenders point out that he does sometimes make mistakes in Italian colloquialisms and suggest that he did not appreciate the level offence he might have caused, even though he did grow up in an Italian-speaking household in Argentina.