The National:

IN December, Pope Francis made an off-hand remark about Scottish independence during an interview with a Spanish paper. In January, people noticed.

The pontiff had been asked what the Catholic church’s role should be in the Catalan independence debate, which led him to talk about other constitutional clashes around Europe.

The Pope said that every country had to find its own path to resolve any issues, pointing to North Macedonia and the autonomous Trentino-Alto Adige region of northern Italy.

READ MORE: 'God bless Pope Francis': Tory MSP reacts to independence comment

Mentioning the UK, Francis told the Spanish paper ABC: “Los ingleses resolvieron 'a la inglesa' las solicitudes de Escocia.”

Literally translated, that means: “The English resolved ‘in the English way’ the requests of Scotland.”

The question which no one seems to have the answer to is what exactly he meant by things having been resolved “in the English way”.

What does 'the English way' mean?

It’s quite a common saying that can be used to describe anything from a full English breakfast to a style of horse-riding … so just what did the Pope mean by it?

The National: Pope Francis

Was it a shot at the UK Government?

Determined to get to the bottom of the phrase, the Jouker turned to native speakers from South America – the Pope being from Buenos Aires in Argentina.

“I think it’s something to do with the Malvinas Islands [the Falklands],” the first person, from Chile, told us.

“I definitely don’t think it’s something good. It’s like ‘England using their tricks’ … I think.”

A further two, both Argentines who work in translation, agreed that it was "definitely" not a good thing. They said the saying is not idiomatic, so it really is anyone's guess what the pope meant.

In their educated opinion however, it was almost certainly meant in a negative way, "suggesting the English were acting selfishly rather than considering the best interests of the Scottish". 

One of them also said it may be a hint at the Falklands war, "perhaps suggesting a position of power on the part of the English over the Scottish".

Another interpretation?

But another native speaker, from Europe this time, suggested the Pope’s turn of phrase may have had a more favourable meaning.

“I think by ‘a la inglesa’ he means in a ‘old fashion, fair play, democratic game’ like the stereotype of the English lord/gentleman,” they told us, adding: “Although reality definitely differs!”

READ MORE: From battlefield to ballot box: Popes on Scottish independence

The suggestion was that because Westminster is known as a foundational parliament for world democracy, the Pope meant things had been resolved in a democratic way. Presumably he hasn't been paying too much attention recently ...

If at least one thing is clear ... it’s that the Pope’s meaning is not clear.