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Pope Francis has admitted the existence of a "gay lobby" inside the Vatican's secretive administration, the Roman Curia, allegedly exposed during a leaks scandal, according to a Latin American Catholic website.
Back in February Italian media claimed that a secret report by cardinals investigating the leaks included allegations of corruption and blackmail attempts against gay Vatican clergymen, and on the other hand, favouritism based on gay relationships.
"In the Curia, there are truly some saints, but there is also a current of corruption," the pope is quoted as having said during an audience last week with CLAR (the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious Men and Women).
"There is talk of a 'gay lobby' and it's true, it exists. We have to see what can be done," the 76-year-old pontiff is quoted as saying on the Reflection and Liberation website, which was flagged up by religious news agencies on Tuesday.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told AFP: "It was a private meeting, I have no comment to make."
The secret report compiled by a committee of three cardinals for the pope's eyes only was the result of a broad inquiry into leaks of secret Vatican papers last year -- a scandal known as "Vatileaks".
The cardinals questioned dozens of Vatican officials and presented the pope with their final report in December 2012.
Just days before pope Benedict XVI's resignation in February, the Panorama news weekly and the Repubblica daily said that the report contained allegations of blackmail attempts and gay favouritism -- though Lombardi insisted at the time they were "conjectures, fictions and opinions."
The Argentine pope has made reforming the Roman Curia -- the heavily criticised and intrigue-filled administration of the Roman Catholic Church -- a priority of his papacy, but said it would be "difficult".
"I cannot carry out the reforms myself," he said, because "I am very disorganised".
The task will be handled by a commission of eight cardinals from around the world whom Francis appointed in April to help him govern the Catholic Church, set to meet for the first time in October.
"Pray for me, for me to make as few errors as possible," the pope said.