The Pope has spoken of his hopes that shared moral opposition to gay rights and other social progress may help smooth a reunion of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox religions.

On a visit to eastern Church leaders in Cyprus, Pope Benedict XVI said he had a “firm hope” that the schism of 1054 could be healed.

Orthodox leader Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus offered to arrange a meeting with the leader of the Russian church for the pontiff.

The Russian Orthodox church has been outspoken in its disrespect of gay people.

Russia’s patriarch openly welcomed the illegal decision of the mayor of Moscow to ban gay Pride last month.

Alexy II called it a, “decision to prevent public propaganda for immorality.”

Other church officials have called homosexuality a “sin, which destroys human beings and condemns them to a spiritual death.”

This language mirrors that favoured by Pope Benedict, who has attempted to stop gay rights reforms in a range of Catholic countries without success.

“Despite centuries-old divisions, diverging roads and despite the hard work of closing painful wounds, the Lord has never ceased to guide our steps on the path toward unity and reconciliation,” he said.