The Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis has a Catholic boyfriend.

The Vatican confirmed in a press release that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has been dating a Japanese monk since February 2016.

The couple met through a group called the Order of the Knights of Malta, a religious order founded by former Catholic Pope Benedict XVI, according to the news outlet Agence France-Presse. 

The couple were first spotted together at a church in Rome, where Benedict XVI spoke at a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the formation of the order in December 2016. 

Benedict XVI was asked about his relationship with the priest. 

“There is a Catholic priest who is in the priesthood,” he told reporters.

“He has the same vows as me. 

But he is married and lives with his wife.”

Benedict XVI said that he was not involved with the Order. 

During the interview with Agence French-Presso, Benedict XVI also said that it was important for the Church to remain open to new ways of thinking.

“In my day, we were very closed-minded, very secular, very scientific, very liberal,” he said.

“I believe it is important to allow for the growth of the church, of the mind, of religion.”

A spokesperson for the Vatican, Cardinal Georg Varela, told Agence AFP news agency that Benedict XVI had not been formally invited to speak at the order’s ceremony, but would be presenting a book and attending a dinner with the order. 

There have been reports that Benedict’s relationship with a priest may have been an issue when he was elected to the pontificate. 

In April 2016, the pontiff’s spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said that Benedict had no “relationship” with the Japanese monk.

The Japanese news agency Yonhap reported that Benedict told a Japanese interviewer that he had never met the monk, and that he knew nothing about him. 

This story was updated at 4:00pm EST on March 30 to include a statement from the Vatican.