Pope Francis apologises for use of slur during discussion about gay men

Vatican spokesman says pontiff (87) ’never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms’

Pope Francis has apologised for using an offensive slur during a discussion with bishops about admitting gay men into seminaries, saying he “never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms”.

The apology followed reports in the Italian press on Monday that, during the discussion in Rome last week, the pontiff, 87, had said there was already too much “frociaggine” in some seminaries. The Italian word roughly translates as “faggotness”.

Matteo Bruni, the director of the Vatican’s press office, said Francis was aware of the newspaper reports about the closed-door conversation and “apologises to those who felt offended by the use of the term, reported by others”.

“As he stated on several occasions, ‘In the church there is room for everyone, for everyone. Nobody is useless, nobody is superfluous, there is room for everyone. Just as we are, all of us,’” said Bruni. “The pope never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and apologises to those who felt offended by the use of a term, reported by others.”

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The discussion took place during an assembly of the Italian bishops conference (CEI), reportedly aimed at considering the question of whether gay men should be admitted to Catholic seminaries, where priests are trained.

When one of the bishops asked Francis what he should do, the pope reportedly reiterated his objection to admitting gay men, saying that while it was important to embrace everyone, it was likely that a gay person could risk leading a double life. He is then alleged to have used the offensive word.

The story was first reported by the political gossip website Dagospia, before being covered by the Italian dailies La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera, and the news agency Adnkronos.

La Repubblica, Corriere and Adnkronos quoted unnamed bishops, who said that the pontiff meant the derogatory term as a “joke”, and that those around him were surprised and perplexed by the alleged slur. One bishop told Corriere della Sera the Argentinian pontiff may not have been aware the term was offensive.

Since he was elected pope in 2013, Francis has sought to adopt a more inclusive tone towards the LGBTQ+ community in his public statements, much to the disdain of conservative cardinals.

Soon after becoming pope, he famously said in response to a question about gay priests: “Who am I to judge?”

He approved a ruling in December allowing priests to bless unmarried and same-sex couples in a significant change of position for the Catholic Church.

However, he has been clear about not allowing gay people to join the clergy. In an interview in 2018 he said he was “concerned” about what he described as the “serious issue” of homosexuality and that being gay was a “fashion” to which the clergy was susceptible.

“In our societies it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable, and that mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the church,” he said at the time.

The Roman Catholic Church’s position is that homosexual acts are sinful. A decree on training for priests in 2016 emphasised the obligation of sexual abstinence, as well as barring gay men and those who support “gay culture” from holy orders. - Guardian