VATICAN CITY - The Vatican made key changes to an English translation of passages about homosexuality in a divisive document on Thursday, watering down a message that had been seen as a major shift in its tone on gay people.
The alterations pointed to continued tensions between conservatives and progressive bishops at the closed-door assembly, known as a synod, which is discussing family issues such as homosexuality, divorce and birth control.
They included substituting the phrase "providing for these people" (homosexuals) in place of the earlier "welcoming these people".
The word 'fraternal' in a passage that called for the need to find "a fraternal space" for homosexuals in the Church was deleted without explanation in the English translation of the original Italian.
The provisional document, issued on Monday at the mid-point of a two-week assembly of some 200 bishops from around the world, was hailed as a breakthrough by gay rights groups and Church progressives but prompted a backlash from conservatives.
In a dramatic change in tone from past condemnatory language, it said homosexuals had "gifts and qualities to offer" the Christian community and asked if Catholicism could accept gays and recognise positive aspects of same-sex couples.
There were no changes in the translation of those passages.
Conservatives had vowed to change the language in the final version, to be issued after the gathering ends on Sunday.
A Vatican spokesman said on Friday the changes were made after some participants pointed out errors in the first English translation, which was the only one changed.
But reporters at a news conference challenged the new translation, saying that it was not faithful to the Italian text, which was not changed and which the Vatican considers the official text.
"I am Italian and that is not a translation. It is a falsification," Massimo Faggioli, a theologian and historian who is writing about the assembly said in a Tweet.
The Italian version still uses the word "accogliere," which means "welcoming" and not "providing for".
The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual tendencies are not sinful but homosexual acts are. It is against gay marriage.
Summaries released on Thursday from 10 discussion groups broken down by language indicated that many bishops wanted changes in the final version of the document, which also deals with issues such as cohabitation, divorce and birth control.