Pope Francis has admitted to the existence of a “gay lobby” inside the Vatican’s secretive administration, the Curia, according to AFP.

“In the Curia, there are truly some saints, but there is also a current of corruption,”  Pope Francis is quoted as having said during an audience last Thursday 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,” said the 76-year-old.

Pope Francis has made reforming the Curia – the heavily criticised administration arm of the Roman Catholic Church – a keystone of his papacy, but said it would be “difficult”.

“I cannot carry out the reforms myself,” he said, explaining that he was “disorganised”.

His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, left office earlier this year amid a wave of speculation that his decision to resign was in part finalised by a Vatican report showing that the Holy See (Papal court) was affected by outside influences, including a “gay lobby”.

The Vatican denied the reports – carried in the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica – and the Secretariat of State at the Vatican released a statement in February saying: “It is deplorable that as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the conclave … that there be a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions.”

La Repubblica claimed it received the information from an unnamed Vatican source, and said that Pope Benedict commissioned a report in response to the so-called Vatileaks scandal of last year.

The report is said to say that there was widespread breaking of commandments within the Holy See, in particular the seventh commandment, “thou shalt not steal”, and the sixth, “thou shalt not commit adultery”.

The breaking of the seventh commandment was blamed on a “gay lobby” influencing the Holy See to commit sexual offences.

It referred to the “worldly nature” and “outside influence” of the lobby.

La Repubblica had suggested that the lobby could be linked to the 2010 Vatican scandal in which a papal gentleman-in-waiting was found to be using male prostitutes.