VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis asked forgiveness Wednesday for recent scandals that have rocked Rome and the Vatican, showing again he doesn't much care about making waves if it's for the sake of reassuring his flock.
Francis didn't cite examples in his off-the-cuff request for pardon at the start of his general audience and his spokesman declined to elaborate on what he might have meant. However, the past week has seen its fair share of headline-making news that has involved the church in one way or another.
On the eve of Francis' big and contentious meeting on family issues, a Vatican monsignor came out as gay and, with his boyfriend by his side, denounced homophobia in the Catholic Church. He was summarily fired from his job in the Vatican's doctrine office.
A few days later, Rome's mayor resigned amid scandal of his own doing. But Mayor Ignazio Marino's downfall followed criticism within the church that the city was ill-prepared to handle the millions of pilgrims expected for Francis' Jubilee Year of Mercy, which starts in December. In an uncharacteristic jab, Francis himself spoke critically of Marino en route home from the U.S.
And finally, Francis' synod has been rocked by revelations that a dozen conservative cardinals wrote to the pope with serious concerns about the way the meeting was being run.
"Before I begin the catechesis I would like in the name of the church to ask your forgiveness for the scandals which have recently fallen on Rome and the Vatican," Francis said to thousands of people gathered in damp but warm weather in St. Peter's Square. "I ask your forgiveness."
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, declined to specify which scandals Francis was referring to, saying the pope clearly intended his apology to be "ample and general."
While stressing that Marino's resignation was a political, not church, issue, Lombardi said it had clearly affected ordinary Romans who had come to the audience, and that Francis, who is bishop of Rome, wanted to acknowledge their pain.
During the audience, the pope also greeted some of the 33 Chilean miners who survived 69 days underground in 2010 after their mine shaft caved in.