Pope Francis says the Catholic Church must help parents to stand by their gay children – but that same-sex marriage “never crossed the minds” of bishops when they gathered at the Vatican in October.

Speaking to Argentinian daily La Nacion, the Pope said that leaders had a duty to help families deal “with that somewhat unusual situation”.

“What we did talk about was of how a family with a homosexual child, whether a son or a daughter, goes about educating that child, how the family bears up, how to help that family to deal with that somewhat unusual situation,” he said.

“That is to say, the synod addressed the family and the homosexual persons in relation to their families, because we come across this reality all the time in the confessional: a father and a mother whose son or daughter is in that situation.

“This happened to me several times in Buenos Aires.

“We have to find a way to help that father or that mother to stand by their son or daughter.”

But he said that “nobody mentioned homosexual marriage” at the Vatican synod in October because “it did not cross our minds”.

Catholic bishops scrapped their landmark welcome to gay people in October, showing deep divisions at the end of a two-week meeting sought by Pope Francis to chart a more merciful approach to ministering to Catholic families.

An earlier draft of the document offered a welcoming tone of acceptance, but that was stripped away.

Speaking to reporters in July last year, Pope Francis said that gay people should not be judged or marginalised and should be integrated into society.

In March, Pope Francis declared: “matrimony is between a man and a woman”.