Pope’s reported remark on gay people ‘disappointing but not a step back’

The Pope’s reported use of derogatory language about gay people has been branded “disappointing” by a London-based LGBT+ Catholic group.

Italian media reported that Pope Francis used the term “frociaggine” when answering no to a question on whether gay men should be admitted to seminaries to train for the priesthood.

The Vatican has not commented on the remark – believed to translate to an offensive slur – reported to have been made in a meeting behind closed doors earlier this month.

Martin Pendergast, secretary of LGBT+ Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council, told the PA news agency: “If it is as it has been reported it is offensive. I think it is disappointing. He should be more careful about how he phrases things, particularly in these kind of off-the-cuff remarks.

“I think he tends to use these slang words without understanding the ramifications they can have.”

But, asked whether he feels the remark will be a step back for relations for the church and its gay members, Mr Pendergast replied “certainly not” and questioned the way in which the comment had emerged from the private meeting.

He said: “I just wonder what the rationale was for whoever released this to the media – was it used to weaponise against the Pope’s more consistent LGBT+ welcoming approach?

“It would have been better to have challenged the comment within the meeting (rather than leaking it).”

Asked about the comment, a spokesman from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) said: “Echoing the consistent message of the Synod and this papacy, the Catholic Church is a place of welcome for all.”

In 2013, Pope Francis was reported to have indicated he would not judge priests for their sexual orientation, saying: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

In December last year he formally approved allowing priests to bless same-sex couples, as long as such blessings do not give the impression of a marriage ceremony, reversing a 2021 policy by the Vatican’s doctrine office, which barred such blessings on the grounds that God “does not and cannot bless sin”.

The Pope’s most recent reported comment came as LGBT+ Catholics Westminster marked its 25th anniversary, with a celebratory Mass on Sunday.

Bishop Paul McAleenan, who is Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster and was representing Cardinal Vincent Nichols at the service, told those gathered that the church “must never be closed, it must always be a church that includes and makes room for all”.

He thanked the LGBT+ group for its “value” and “contribution to the life of the church”.