(CNN) — Pope Francis has apologized for using an anti-gay slur during a meeting with bishops.

The 87-year-old pontiff reportedly made the homophobic remark in a closed-door meeting last week as he told Italian bishops that gay men shouldn’t be allowed to train for the priesthood.

“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 Tuesday statement.

“As he (Pope Francis) has said on several occasions, ‘in the Church there is room for everyone, everyone! No one is useless, no one is superfluous, there is room for everyone. Just as we are, everyone.’”

The Pope’s comments came to light on Monday when two Italian newspapers – the Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica – reported on the May 20 meeting, citing sources in attendance.

The newspaper articles, which were translated from Italian, claimed the Pope had said there is “frociaggine” – which translates in English to “faggotry” – in some of the seminaries.

Francis’ comments were made in the context of proposals from the Italian bishops to amend guidelines on candidates to seminaries.

The Vatican ruled in 2005 that the church cannot allow the ordination of men who are actively gay or have “deep-seated” homosexual tendencies. Francis upheld the ruling in 2016.

Two years later he told the Italian bishops not to accept gay candidates for the priesthood.

During his pontificate, the Pope has sought to offer a more welcoming approach to LGBTQ+ Catholics, saying “who am I to judge?” when asked about gay priests, and has also offered the possibility that priests could offer informal blessings for same-sex couples.

The Corriere della Sera newspaper stated that the Argentine pope, who speaks Italian as a second language, may not have been aware of how offensive his language was, adding that the remark was greeted with incredulous laughter by the bishops.

A source close to the Pope told CNN that the phrase could also be understood as there is a “gay climate” in the seminaries.

There is no official transcript of the comments due to the nature of the closed-door meeting.

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