Pope Francis has apologized for recent scandals “either in Rome or in the Vatican”.
The pontiff made the surprising apology at his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square, but did not specify which scandals.
Pope Francis is thought to be referring to a senior Polish priest who was dismissed from his Vatican post after announcing he was in a gay relationship.
The Pope’s spokesman said the pontiff had not been referring to the recent resignation of Rome’s mayor.
Father Federico Lombardi admitted to reporters that Pope Francis’ apology had been “broad and generic” but said it did not refer to “political” situations involving Mayor Ignazio Marino, who resigned earlier this week over an expenses scandal.
The Vatican spokesman said Pope Francis was referring to scandals in which there is a “responsibility of men of the Church”.
To thousands of people who had gathered for his weekly address, Pope Francis said: “Before I begin the Catechism, in the name of the Church, I want to ask you for forgiveness for the scandals that have occurred recently either in Rome or in the Vatican. I ask you for forgiveness.”
The pontiff also said: “The word of Jesus is strong today, woe to the world because of scandals. Jesus is a realist. He says it is inevitable that there will be scandals. But woe to the man who causes scandals.”
Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino has come under criticism recently for the slow start in the city’s preparations for the holy year due to begin in the second week of December.
Millions of pilgrims are expected to travel to Rome for a series of Church events, and this will require extra policing and provision of accommodation and food and water.