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Pope Francis called out during a meeting for repeated use of anti-gay slurs

Pope Francis greets pilgrims during his weekly general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican on September 10, 2014.
Photo: Shutterstock

A university student from the Philippines called out Pope Francis for his repeated use of an offensive term referring to gay priests.

Lorenz Acebedo, a student studying psychology at a university in Manila, used his prepared remarks at a virtual meeting with the pontiff to condemn his use of the Roman Italian word “frociaggine,” which translates loosely to “fag**try” in English.

“Stop using offensive language against the LGBTQIA+ community,” Acebedo told the Pope on Thursday. “This leads to immense pain.”

The psychology student used his time at the video conference “Building Bridges Across Asia Pacific: A Synodal Encounter with Pope Francis and University Students” to address stigma and discrimination against marginalized communities in the Philippines.

“I myself am outcasted and bullied due to my bisexuality, my gayness, my identity, and being a son of a single parent,” Acebedo shared with Francis before asking him to refrain from using the kind of hurtful language that stigmatizes LGBTQ+ people like himself.

“And stop using offensive language against the LGBTQIA+ community. This leads to immense pain. Due to this, I developed bipolar disorder and I am stigmatized.”

Acebedo went on to explain that Philippine culture “suppresses emotional expression. This leads to risky behaviors. The Philippines has one of the highest rates of HIV transmission and suicidal ideations in the world. These reveal how we suffer systemic discrimination.”

Francis nodded thoughtfully as Acebedo spoke and waved in acknowledgment as he concluded. The Pope did not directly address his own use of “offensive language” in later remarks.

The 87-year-old pontiff first used the term “frociaggine” in a closed-door meeting with Italian bishops on May 20, according to sources who shared the exchange with the Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica newspapers.

In a discussion about amending guidelines on candidates to seminaries, they said, the Pope asserted that gay men shouldn’t be allowed to train for the priesthood, saying there is “frociaggine” in some of the seminaries.

A source close to the Pope told CNN that the term could also be understood to mean there is a “gay climate” in the seminaries under discussion.

The Pope reportedly repeated the word at a meeting just two weeks later with 200 priests at Salesian Pontifical University in Rome, according to two major Italian news outlets, ANSA and Adnkronos.

Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported that the pope used the term while sharing a conversation he had with a clergy member.

“A bishop came to me and told me, ‘There is too much frociaggine here in the Vatican,’” the newspaper quoted the pope as saying.

The Italian newspaper also reported the Pope said, “Gay people are good guys, have nice paths of faith.”

But if they sought the priesthood, he continued, they should instead be directed to a spiritual guide or “to some psychologist.” If they became priests, he added, gay men were likely to “fail while exercising their ministry.”

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