The Vatican has rejected claims in the media that Pope Francis is supporting a book on gay adoption, saying a letter responding to the author should not be interpreted as an endorsement.

In responding to the author's letter, the Vatican Secretariat of State did not intend in any way to support "behavior and teachings which are not in accordance with the Gospel," and using the Vatican response to imply otherwise "is completely out of place," said Fr. Ciro Benedettini, deputy director of the Holy See Press Office, Aug. 28.

The Holy See statement came in response to a media frenzy following reports that Francesca Pardi, author of a children's book supporting gay adoption, received a letter from Pope Francis that allegedly encouraged her to keep up her work.

Pardi's book is titled "Piccolo uovo" – in Italian, "Little egg." It includes the story of two gay penguins who adopt a baby penguin, among other non-traditional animal families.

The book won the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award.

Pardi is the author of a series of books supporting the notion of gay family, including "Why do you have two moms?" And "What is Dad's secret?"

"Piccolo uovo" had been included on a recommended reading list for children in primary schools in Venice. However, the city's newly-elected mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, removed it in June.

Brugnaro said that while most of the books from the reading suggestion list could be used in primary schools, books on 'gender theory' – including "Piccolo uovo" – would not be permitted.

"No child will be discriminated against or treated differently, and integration will be encouraged, but it must be acknowledged that the majority of people have a Mom and a Dad," he said.

In response, Pardi wrote a letter to Pope Francis, enclosing the catalogue of the books published by the publishing house "Lo Stampatello," which she co-founded with her girlfriend.

In her letter, she argued that while the books support ideas of gay family and adoption, they do not contain 'gender theory' because they do not discuss sex or tell children they can choose their own gender.

On Aug. 28, Pardi said in a Facebook post that she had received "a private letter written by Msgr. (Peter) Brian Wells in the name of Pope Francis, on Vatican letterhead."

She said that the letter was addressed to her and to her girlfriend, Silvia Maria Fiengo. She claimed that the Pope "had thanked her" for the "delicate gesture" and expressed wishes for "an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values."

Pardi added that the Pope gave her and Fiengo the Apostolic Blessing. Numerous media outlets covered the story by saying that the Pope was offering his support for Pardi and her book.

However, the Vatican says that the letter signed by Msgr. Peter Wells, assessor to the Secretariat of State, is not an indication of papal support.

Thanking people for their "delicate gesture" is part of the formula that is generally used whenever the Pope is offered a gift.

"(T)he Secretariat of State does not want in any way to back behaviors and teachings not in accordance with the Gospel," Fr. Benedettini said. This is reflected in the letter's wish for more fruitful activity "and the spread of genuine human and Christian values."

He also said that the Secretariat of State addressed the reception of the letter "with a simple and pastoral style," and later "clarified (that) it was a private response, and for this reason it was not intended for publication (as it unfortunately happened)."

As far as the papal blessing, Fr. Benedettini clarified that "the blessing is for the person and not for (any) teaching against the Doctrine of the Church on gender ideology."

He added that the Church's position on gender ideology "has not changed, as the Holy Father reiterated many times."

Using the contents of the letter to suggest otherwise, he concluded, "is completely out of place."