ROME – After reports circulated internationally saying Pope Francis used a crude slang term to refer to homosexuality in Catholic seminaries, the Vatican has said he meant no offense and apologized, but without admitting the pope used the term.

In a May 28 statement, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said, “Pope Francis is aware of the articles published recently about a conversation, behind closed doors, with the bishops of CEI,” referring to the Italian Episcopal Conference.

Bruni said the pope reiterated his previous statements that “in the Church there is space for everyone, for everyone! No one is useless, no one is superfluous, there is space for all. Just as we are, everyone.”

“The pope never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he apologizes to those who felt offended by the use of a term, as reported by others,” Bruni said.

Pope Francis and the Vatican have faced enormous pressure in recent days after a report was published in Italian blog Dagospia, roughly the country’s equivalent of the Drudge Report, stating that the pope had used an off-color slang term referring to homosexuals during a recent session with members of CEI.

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On May 20, Francis addressed the spring plenary assembly of the CEI in the Vatican’s synod hall, speaking behind closed doors to some 230 bishops as well as other clergy and supporting staff.

Though Francis’s meetings with CEI are typically held privately, meaning the Vatican doesn’t release an official transcript, several days after the meeting news leaked that the pope had addressed the issue of admitting homosexual men to Catholic seminaries.

According to the reports, Francis urged caution on this front, saying there was too much frociaggine in seminaries, loosely meaning “faggotry.”

The reports generated immediate backlash against the pope, including from some who were shocked to hear that the pope famous for the quip, “Who am I to judge?” and who has been seen as a champion of LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Catholic Church, apparently used such crude terms.

While the Vatican’s statement took ownership of the fallout and apologized, it stopped short of admitting that Pope Francis had used the term, meaning there is still no formal acknowledgement from the Vatican of the pope’s casual use of the slang.

His apparent remark comes as CEI, grappling with a worrying vocations crisis, is evaluating a new set admissions guidelines for seminaries, a draft of which draws a distinction between orientation and active behavior in potential candidates.

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