A Catholic priest has called on the Papal conclave to elect a gay man to be the next Pope to avoid an association with pedophilia.

Don Andrea Gallo, an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights has told Italy’s Radio 24: “A homosexual pope would be a magnificent thing. The essence of the Gospel is that we are all God’s sons and daughters and we are all equal as God’s children.”

The priest added: “The homosexual priest must be free to express his identity and his sexuality, because repression leads to pedophilia.”

Mr Gallo has previously supported the rights of LGBT people and smoked marijuana in public to protest against drugs laws.

Andrew Sullivan, one of America’s highest-profile political bloggers, has claimed that the outgoing Pope Benedict XVI may be secretly gay.

Sullivan made the claims following the announcement that Benedict will not go into hidden retirement but will instead continue living in the Vatican with trusted secretary Archbishop Georg Gaenswein.

Due to the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s over allegations of same-sex sexual improprieties, Britain will have no representation at the impending conclave, when the Catholic Church’s top cardinals gather to elect a new Pope.

Last Friday, just hours after Pope Benedict XVI officially stood down as Pope, the Scotsman newspaper reported that the Vatican were first altered to the most recent allegation involving Cardinal O’Brien in October 2012 – around five months before his resignation.

The Vatican has already been accused of failing to come to terms with the issue of homosexuality in the Catholic Church.

US LGBT Catholic group Rainbow Sash Movement said in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation: “It is now time for the Vatican to sincerely begin dealing with the present realities that face the world wide church. The time of hiding behind the theater of liturgy, incense, bells and music rather than the justice that should flow from that Liturgy needs to come to an end.”