The Vatican on Monday rolled back on Pope Francis's recommendation that parents seek psychiatric help for children who show homosexual tendencies.
The Pope made the comments to journalists as he was flying back to Rome from Ireland, but the Vatican later removed his phrase from its official account, saying he had not meant to suggest that homosexuality was a mental illness.
Francis was asked by a journalist what he would say to parents who observe homosexual traits in their children.
"I would say first of all pray, not to condemn, to dialogue, to understand, to give space to the son or the daughter," he responded, before adding that parents must also consider the age of the child.
"When it [homosexuality] shows itself from childhood, there is a lot that can be done through psychiatry, to see how things are. It is something else if it shows itself after 20 years," he said.
The Pope added that ignoring a child who showed homosexual tendencies was an "error of fatherhood or motherhood".
However when the Vatican later published the Pope's answer, the reference to psychiatry had been removed.
When asked why, a Vatican spokeswoman told AFP it had been done in order to not "change the thoughts of the Holy Father".
"When the Pope referred to 'psychiatry', it is clear that he was doing it to highlight an example of 'things that can be done'. But with that word he didn't mean to say that it (homosexuality) was a 'mental illness'," she said.
Francis's trip to Ireland was fraught with controversy amid accusations that he ignored sexual abuse allegations against prominent US cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
Ahead of his visit, delegates at a Catholic conference in Dublin heard a plea from a US priest for the Church to welcome gay members, whom he said had been made to feel like lepers.
The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual tendencies are not sinful but homosexual acts are, and that homosexuals should try to be chaste.
In 2013 Pope Francis said the Church should seek forgiveness from homosexuals for the way they had treated them.
"If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" he said.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)