WHILE some people may be exhilarated when everyone attentively listens to what they have to say, the cross of having the whole world hang on his every word fell heavily on Pope Francis after he accidentally mispronounced an Italian word that turned out to be the first recorded papal expletive.
The Argentine pope was reading an Italian text from the window of the papal apartments in the Vatican when he mispronounced the word “caso,” which means case, as “cazzo,” a common Italian cuss word equivalent to the English f-word.
“If each one of us does not amass riches only for oneself, but half for the service of others, in this f*** [pause], in this case the providence of God will become visible through this gesture of solidarity,” Francis said as he was urging a peaceful solution to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
The Vatican did not officially comment on the incident, but the papal faux pax, including accompanying YouTube videos, was posted on Italian media websites within minutes and soon went viral.
The incident gave critics of the pope to poke fun at the 77-year-old pontiff with several individuals and media outlets taking potshots at the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility.
But Filipino priest Carlos J. Santos said papal infallibility had nothing to do with mispronounced words.
“It is unfortunate that some people put awful meanings to every word of a pope or even a priest,” Santos said. “Pope Francis is only human and does not have divine guarantee of protection from error, except when he is speaking about a matter of faith ex cathedra.”
Ex cathedra, literally meaning “from the chair,” refers to official papal teachings and infallibility means such teachings cannot be erroneous because God would never allow the Catholic Church to err to the detriment of the faithcul, Santos explained.
But other reactions posted on news websites showed that most people accept that the incident was accidental and even humorous. The Jewish secular newspaper Haaretz reported the incident under the title: “An unfortunate slip of the holy tongue: Pope Francis says the F-word.”
One website even had readers arguing the etymology and proper usage of Italian cuss words while the Washington Post compared the incident to common slip ups in language usage.
“When you’re an ambassador across languages and national borders, as the Pope is, something like this seems almost inevitable,” according the Washington Post report.
“What’s amazing is how well everything else has gone. It’s hard enough to deliver a public speech in a language you’ve grown up with. [Insert obligatory joke about President George W. Bush here.]”