Pope warned by student to stop using offensive language against LGBT+ community

Jack Lorenz Acebedo Rivera accuses the pontiff of causing ‘immense pain’

Tom Watling
Friday 21 June 2024 18:36 BST
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Pope Francis greets people as he arrives for the weekly general audience at Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican
Pope Francis greets people as he arrives for the weekly general audience at Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican (Reuters)

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Pope Francis has been told by a university student to “stop using offensive language” against LGBT+ people less than a month after the Vatican had to apologise over the use of a homophobic slur.

Filipino Catholic university student Jack Lorenz Acebedo Rivera, from the Ateneo de Manila University, told the pontiff that such words caused “immense pain”.

Speaking during the “Building Bridges” live online video panel, a forum intended to bring together Catholic university students from different countries, Mr Rivera told Pope Francis that he has been “outcasted and bullied due to my bisexuality, my gayness, my identity and being the son of a single parent”.

Wearing a rainbow-coloured sash over his traditional Filipino garment, he added: “Stop using offensive language against the LGBTQIA+ community."

The students comments came after reports that the pontiff reportedly said gay men should not be allowed to train for the priesthood during the Italian Bishops’ Conference last month, before adding that there was already an air of “frociaggine”, which translates as a highly offensive slur.

After someone leaked the comments, made in a closed door meeting, to the Italian tabloid website Dagospia, the Vatican said that the pontiff did not mean to offend anyone.

“As he [the Pope] has stated on more than one occasion, ‘In the Church there is room for everyone, everyone! Nobody is useless or superfluous, there is room for everyone, just the way we are’,” the statement quoted the director of the Holy See – the Catholic Church’s governing body – Matteo Bruni, as saying.

“The Pope never meant to offend or to use homophobic language, and apologises to everyone who felt offended [or] hurt by the use of a word.”

The Pope then faced accusations of repeating the slur in another closed door meeting in June.

The pontiff did not address Mr Rivera’s remarks directly during the video panel but said, via a translator, that he was advising the student to differentiate between true and false love.

“Always pick true love,” he said.

He then told the group of students that “women are the best people”, recounting a meeting with a female European leader who he said had a “maternal ability” that afforded her an edge over men.

"Many women have brought children on their own... a widower can hardly go on their own,” he said. “A woman, alone, can certainly grow her family. This is the greatness of women."

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