Pope apologizes for reported use of offensive term for gay men

Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Images

(VATICAN CITY) — Pope Francis is apologizing after reports that he used an offensive term for gay men in a recent closed-door meeting.

“Pope Francis is aware of articles that recently came out about a conversation, behind closed doors, with the bishops of the [Italian Bishops Conference],” the Vatican press office said in a statement from Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni.

Italian media sourced the use of the term to unidentified bishops who reportedly overheard Pope Francis’ speech at a meeting of the Italian Bishops’ Conference. They claim in reports that Pope Francis used the term while reinforcing longstanding Church instruction against allowing homosexual men to enter the seminary to train for the priesthood.

“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, reported by others,” the Vatican’s statement continued. “As he has had the opportunity to state on several occasions, ‘In the Church there is room for everyone, for everyone! No one is useless, no one is superfluous, there is room for everyone. Just as we are, everyone.'”

In 2023, Pope Francis called on a crowd of hundreds of thousands on World Youth Day to yell back at him that the Catholic Church is for “todos, todos, todos” — everyone, everyone, everyone. He was later asked how he could reconcile his “todos” message with the fact that LGBTQ+ people are excluded from the sacraments. The pope answered the Church has laws, but is still a place for everyone.

The pope’s reported use of the slur surprised many. Throughout his papacy, Francis has introduced an openness concerning the LGBTQ community, though he has upheld the church’s position on doctrinal matters.

When a journalist asked Francis a question about gay priests while returning from the first foreign trip of his papacy in 2013, the pope stunned people with his response: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Pope Francis also has criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality, and has formally approved allowing Catholic priests to bless same-sex couples – a significant change in Vatican guidance.

Pope Francis, whose native language is Spanish and not Italian, has at times during his papacy made up words, or used slang or inappropriate phraseology during his remarks, often while speaking off-the-cuff.

ABC News’ Melissa Gaffney and Ines de la Cuetara contributed to this report.

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