Pope Francis Apologizes for Homophobic Slur During Recent Meeting with Church Leaders

By: Georgia | Published: May 29, 2024

Pope Francis found himself in hot water last week after a comment made behind closed doors was leaked. 

During a private discussion with Italian bishops, the Pope reportedly used a homophobic slur, sparking immediate backlash.

Vatican Scrambles to Apologize

Quick on the damage control, the Vatican issued a statement regretting the Pope’s choice of words. 

Aerial view of Vatican City showing St. Peter's Basilica and its expansive square, surrounded by the densely packed buildings of Rome

Source: Wikimedia Commons

“The Pope never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he extends his apologies to those who felt offended by the use of a term, as reported by others,” the official response clarified.


The Meeting That Shook Headlines

It was during a routine meeting on May 20th that Pope Francis’s remarks made waves.

A large group of bishops and clergy in white robes gathered at an outdoor religious event, standing in front of a modern white stage with a large cross.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Initially reported by Italian news outlets Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica, the story highlighted his use of a derogatory term, leading to widespread media coverage.

What Did Pope Francis Really Say?

In the context of discussing priesthood eligibility, Pope Francis was quoted mentioning an offensive noun which translates roughly as “f*****ry,” referring to some behaviors in seminaries. 

Pope Francis, in white ceremonial robes, holds a golden staff topped with a detailed cross during a religious service inside a church

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This comment has sparked a significant controversy given its sensitive nature.

Church's Stance on Homosexuality

This incident brings back into focus the Church’s formal position from 2005.

Pope Francis, smiling broadly, reaches out to a crowd of people who are taking photos with smartphones, some stretching out their hands towards him

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This was reaffirmed by Francis in 2016, which bars men with “deep-seated” homosexual tendencies from ordination.

A History of Controversial Comments

This isn’t the first time Pope Francis has navigated troubled waters.

Pope Francis, center, smiles and waves as he is surrounded by a crowd of people taking photos with phones and cameras, with St. Peter's Basilica in the background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In 2018, he advised Italian bishops against accepting gay candidates for priesthood, echoing earlier sentiments about the church’s position.


Pope's Progressive Notes

Despite this, Pope Francis has often been seen as a progressive leader within the Church. 

Pope Francis, wearing white papal attire, waves to a cheering crowd from the open white popemobile surrounded by security and ecclesiastical officials during a sunny day

Source: Wikimedia Commons

His famous “Who am I to judge?” response about gay priests has been seen as a beacon of hope for more inclusive church rhetoric.


Mixed Signals?

While advocating for a church “where there is room for everyone,” the recent comments seem to contradict the Pope’s usually welcoming tone towards the LGBTQ+ community.

Front view of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City during twilight, showing the detailed facade and illuminated windows under a clear sky

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This has caused confusion and disappointment among advocates.


Language Barrier or Genuine Mistake?

Corriere della Sera hinted that the Pope’s second language barrier might have contributed to the slip, noting the bishops’ incredulous reaction to his words. 

Close-up of Pope Francis seated in the popemobile, dressed in white papal vestments

Source: Wikimedia Commons

It raises the question: was this a misunderstanding or a deeper issue within the church’s views?


The Buzz Among Bishops

According to insider reports, the remark was initially met with laughter.

Back view of a bishop wearing a white mitre and liturgical vestments, leading a religious ceremony in a church filled with congregants focused forward towards a crucifix

Source: Jomarc Nicolai Cala/Unsplash

It was suggested that this was a nervous reaction to the unexpected and controversial nature of the comment during what was supposed to be a serious discussion.


No Transcript Available

Due to the private nature of the meeting, there is no official transcript of Pope Francis’s words. 

Pope Francis, standing in a white popemobile, gestures while addressing thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square

Source: Ágatha Depiné/Unsplash

This lack of record adds to the complexities of understanding the full context of his remark.


Continuing the Conversation

As this story unfolds, it illustrates the ongoing debate within the Church and among its followers the leadership’s approach to sensitive issues. 

Pope Francis, smiling broadly, waves to a crowd from the popemobile at St. Peter's Square, with attendees capturing the moment on various devices

Source: Ashwin Vaswani/Unsplash

Will the fallout from this episode prompt the Church to reconsider how it addresses inclusivity and language sensitivity?