Gay rights activists protested outside St Peter’s Square this evening, following the condemnation of gay marriage by the Pope, Benedict XVI on Thursday.

The group avoided entering the square, which is Vatican territory, but demonstrated just outside of it with banners criticising the Church’s stance on homosexuality.

Reuters report that one protestor’s banner says “2000 years of discrimination” whilst others urged the Pope to stay out of Italian affairs.

The demonstration also commemorated the suicide of Alfredo Ormando, a 39-year-old gay Italian who set himself ablaze there eight years ago tonight.

The Pope, Benedict XVI, said yesterday that doctors should not give women the abortion pill because it hides the “gravity” of taking a human life, he also said it was wrong to give legal recognition to gay marriages.

The pontiff once again reaffirmed the Roman Catholic teaching on both abortion and the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman during an audience with officials from Rome and its surrounding Lazio region.

He said that pregnant women, particularly those in difficult situations, needed concrete help, and that officials should: “avoid introducing drugs that hide in some way the gravity of abortion, as a choice against life.”

Abortions held up to and during the third month of a pregnancy was made legal in predominantly Catholic Italy in 1978, after a long battle with the Vatican. Recently, the abortion pill RU-486 became available in parts of Italy on an experimental basis.

The Italian Bishops’ Conference has mounted a renewed fight against abortion and the RU-486 pill, turning abortion into a campaign issue for the first time since Italians upheld the law in a 1981 referendum the Vatican sponsored in a bid to overturn it.

The Pope also stressed that marriage between man and woman was the cornerstone of society and not some “casual sociological construction” that could be replaced.

“It’s a serious error to obscure the value and function of the legitimate family founded on matrimony, attributing to other forms of unions improper legal recognition, for which there really is no social need,” he said.

Gay and lesbian associations in Italy have been pushing for common law couples to have legal recognition in hopes the move might pave the way for granting legal status to gay couples.

Civil partnerships for gay and lesbian couples were introduced in Britain at the end of last year.

Dell Offers