Pope warns bishops against letting gay people train for priesthood

Pope Francis has warned Italian bishops to be wary of priesthood applicants suspected of having homosexual tendencies, according to a new report.

'Keep an eye on the admissions to seminaries, keep your eyes open,' the pope said, according to the Vatican Insider service of Italian newspaper La Stampa.

'If in doubt, better not let them enter.'

The remarks were reportedly made at a closed-door gathering at the Vatican on Monday, opening the 71st general assembly of the Italian bishops' conference. The pontiff reportedly called for 'careful discernment' of seminary applicants, including caution about those with 'deep seated tendencies' or who 'practise homosexual acts'. These tendencies could lead to scandal, compromising both the priest and the Church, he said.

ReutersPope Francis leaves at the end of the Ash Wednesday mass at Santa Sabina Basilica in Rome, Italy, February 14, 2018.

The pope's reported comments were confirmed by Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia-Citta della Pieve, president of the Italian bishops' conference, in a press conference yesterday, according to Catholic News Agency. They appear to affirm the traditional Catholic teaching that practising homosexuals should not be admitted to the priesthood.

The remarks will be seen by some as an attempt by Pope Francis to appease conservatives agitated by widely publicised comments the pope has been reported as saying, such as when he told a gay Chilean man who had suffered clerical sex abuse that God loved him the way he had made him.

Juan Carlos Cruz told the Spanish newspaper El Pais last week that Francis had said: 'Juan Carlos, that you are gay does not matter. God made you like that and he loves you like that and I do not care. The pope loves you as you are, you have to be happy with who you are.'

Some feared the pope was undermining Catholic teaching on sexuality but the Catholic archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said that the pope's slightly ambiguous remarks to Cruz could be taken as a 'beautiful' expression of 'orthodox teaching'.

'While any sexual expression outside of a man and woman in marriage is contrary to God's purpose, so is not treating anyone, including a gay person, with anything less than dignity and respect,' he said.

In now-famous remarks on his first overseas trip in 2013, the Pope Francis said: 'If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?' In 2016 he said that 'when a person arrives before Jesus, Jesus certainly will not say: "Go away because you are homosexual."'

Additional reporting by Reuters