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Hopes raised that Pope Francis's comments on homosexuality will change attitudes in Italy


Puglian governor Nichi Vendola, one of the few leading politicians to come out as gay, hailed the Pope’s comments. “Pope Francesco has done something fantastic,” he said. “In one fell swoop he has distinguished homosexuality from paedophilia and also demonstrated the ability to listen to what the politicians seem to ignore.“

Italy is years behind virtually all other Western European countries in offering neither civil partnerships for gays and lesbians not legislation protecting them from discrimination nor homophobic violence.

Lesbian former MP Paola Concia said: “What struck me was the different tone used compared to that of Pope Ratzinger. I don’t ever expect the Pope to back gay marriage. But I do demand some respect,” she said.

Predictions that the Pope’s comments might herald the beginnings of change in conservative Italy appeared to be borne out this evening when Rocco Buttiglione, a leading figure in the pious Christian Democrats party also backed the Pope’s comments. Mr Buttiglione said: “Regarding the gays, the Pope has confirmed the doctrine of the Catholic Church.” He even added that he was in favour of a new law against homophobia, because “homosexuality is not a crime and the person must be protected.”

Moves are afoot to introduce legislation against homophic abuse by the end of the summer. However, some right-wing members of Silvio Berlusconi’s Pdl party, have said the law should take a back seat and parliamentary activity should be concentrated on fighting the recession.