The Pope apologizes after using a vulgar term about gay men in connection with the church’s ban on gay priests

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis apologized Tuesday after he was quoted as 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 over Francis’ comments, which were delivered behind closed doors to the Italian bishops on May 20.

On Monday, Italian media quoted unnamed Italian bishops as saying that Francis jokingly used the term “sodomy” while speaking in Italian during the meeting. He used the term to reaffirm the Vatican’s ban on allowing gay men to enter seminaries and ordain them as priests.

Bruni said Francis was aware of the reports and noted that the Argentine pope, who has made outreach to gays and Catholics a hallmark of his papacy, has long insisted that there is “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 others have spoken about,” Bruni said.

Francis was addressing the assembly of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, which recently approved a new document outlining the training of Italian seminarians. The document, which has not been published pending review by the Holy See, is said to have sought to open room for maneuver in the Vatican’s absolute ban on gay priests.

The Vatican’s ban was spelled out in a 2005 document by the Congregation for Catholic Education, and later repeated in a subsequent document in 2016, which said the church could not accept seminaries or ordain men who “practice homosexuality, display or support deep-seated homosexual tendencies.” “. The so-called gay culture.”

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Francis strongly reiterated this position at his May 20 meeting with the Italian bishops, joking that “there is already an atmosphere of homosexuality” in the seminaries, Italian media reported, after initial reports from the gossip site Dagospia.

Italian is not Francis’ native language, and the Argentine pope has made linguistic missteps in the past that have raised eyebrows. The 87-year-old Argentine pope often speaks informally, using slang jokes and even insults in private.

He has been known for his outreach to LGBTQ+ Catholics, starting with his famous “Who am I to judge” comment in 2013 about a priest who allegedly had a gay lover in his past.

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