Pope Francis issued an extraordinary apology on Tuesday after a row over offensive language he was reported to have used to describe gay men.

"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 Vatican said in a statement. 

Italian media reported on Monday that  Pope Francis used an offensive gay slang word during a meeting with Italian bishops, where he joked about the number of gay men in seminaries.

During the private meeting one week ago, the 87-year-old pontiff was reported to have used the derogatory Roman term "frociaggine", which translates loosely as the offensive English words "faggots" or "poofs".

Francis repeated his opposition to openly gay men joining priest training colleges, and then joked that there were "already too many "'frociaggine'" in some seminaries.

The comment first appeared in La Repubblica newspaper and then the Corriere della Sera, which reported the view of some of those present that the pope did not realise how offensive the word was.

The Argentine pontiff's first language is Spanish. 

Since becoming pope in 2013, Francis has insisted on the importance of a Catholic Church open to all, including LGBTQ believers, and even opened the door last year to the blessing of gay couples.

But official church doctrine still states same-sex acts are "intrinsically disordered". 

  

                

                

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