Pope Francis asks for forgiveness in unprepared remarks at Vatican

Pope Francis has publicly asked for forgiveness for the scandals that have hit the Vatican recently.

Pope Francis was in a sombre mood as he asked for forgiveness at his weekly audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican.Reuters

In unprepared remarks to his weekly audience in St Peter's Square, Francis apparently referred to the recent scandals that have dogged his ongoing synod on the family.

"Today ... in the name of the Church, I ask you for forgiveness for the scandals that have occurred recently either in Rome or in the Vatican," he said before his audience of tens of thousands broke into spontaneous applause.

Francis then read his prepared address which focused on caring for children and warned against adults coming in between the "tender and mysterious" relationship with a child and God.

When asked about the comments, Vatican spokesman Father Federido Lombardi could not say which scandals Francis had in mind but said he wanted to reach out to ordinary people who are "disturbed or pained" when they read about scandals caused by "the Church or men of the Church".

There are a number of scandals the Pope could have been referring to. On the eve of the Pope's summit, a priest and theologian working in the Vatican's doctrinal office told a packed press conference that he was gay and had been living with another man for years.

Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa was dismissed within hours but went on to criticise the Church's rule on celibate clergy and said the climate of his workplace was homophobic.

Last week parishioners in the wealthy parish of Santa Teresa d'Avila in Rome wrote to local Church officials alleging that a clergyman there had had encounters with "vulnerable adults". Newspapers said these took place in an adjacent park often frequented by male prostitutes.

According to the letter published in the media, parishioners said they had assembled evidence about the clergyman's illicit activities and were furious to discover he had been transferred to another part of Italy instead of being disciplined.

On top of that these scandals a letter signed by 13 cardinals criticising how the Vatican's current synod is being run has been leaked. The letter warned the summit could split the Church. The synod has pitted conservatives against liberals on numerous issues such as homosexuality.

Additional reporting by Reuters.