Pope Francis has reportedly once again used the Italian word for “faggotry” when addressing a private meeting, a move likely to cause headaches for the Vatican press office and a case of whiplash for gay Catholic advocates who have long considered the pontiff an advocate.

The Italian news service ANSA reported that on Tuesday, during a meeting with priests in the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome, Francis said “In Vaticano c’è aria di frociaggine” – meaning “In the Vatican, there is an air of faggotry.”

The meeting was considered private, and the pope did add that gay men can be “good boys,” but that they shouldn’t be let into seminaries.

During a May 20 closed-door meeting with Italian bishops, Francis reportedly used the same term, and said gay men shouldn’t be let in the priesthood.

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The report caused a firestorm in the media – especially since Francis gained fame for saying “Who am I to judge” about homosexuality early in his pontificate – and 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.”

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.

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Bishop Francesco Savino of Cassano all’Jonio, vice president of Italy’s bishops’ conference, told Il Corriere della Sera the pope did not oppose gay priests, and was “misunderstood” about his words in May.

“The pope’s true concern is the serenity of all. The pope wanted to say that the candidates, whether gay or straight, should be capable of living well their promises with respect to obedience, poverty and chastity; to love with a full heart and empty hands,” the bishop said.

According to Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, Francis responded to a young man named Lorenzo Michele Noè Caruso who sent him a letter after the May 20 statement, noting he was rejected from admission to the seminary due to his homosexuality.

According to the newspaper, the pope commented on the man’s mention of the phrase, “toxic and elective clericalism.”

“It’s true! You know that clericalism is a plague? It’s an ugly ‘worldliness’ and as a great theologian said, ‘worldliness is the worst that can happen to the Church, even worse than the era of concubinary popes,’” the pope said.

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Francis then told Caruso to “go forward with your vocation,” although the article did not mention if he specified his “vocation” involved the priesthood.

However, despite this hard work to clarify the pope’s alleged words against homosexual clergy, Francis’s most recent use of the term “frociaggine” indicates he wants the policy taken seriously, and won’t be “managed” by the media.

And for the Vatican press office – which just issued a statement saying the pope apologized for using “homophobic terms” – this will not be an easy thing to talk about.

Follow Charles Collins on X: @CharlesinRome