As cardinals begin voting for a new Pope, an American LGBT religious organisation says the successor to Pope Benedict XVI must “end the immense harm the Catholic Church has caused” to LGBT people.

Faith in America seeks to warn against the dangers of homophobic doctrine and promotes LGBT religious tolerance.

Brent Childers, an evangelical Christian who once aligned himself with the anti-gay religious industry, serves as its executive director.

In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Childers said: “It is critical for all to understand the devastating effects to a young person when their church leadership teaches that homosexuality is a sin and that they are not God’s best.”

Speaking of his own past, he said: “I have come to learn the unintended consequences of those that believe they are teaching what it is to be a good Catholic or Christian in fact are the very reason why LGBT teens suffer an unusually high rate of depression, attempted suicides, and worse, suicide.”

“Catholic voices are crying out for their church to acknowledge the immense harm caused when certain outdated and misapplied religious teachings are misused to justify and promote hostility toward gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender individuals, especially youth and their families,” Mr Childers added. “The Catholic community needs leadership that can right its wrongs and represent the new majority voice on this issue.”

In February, the abdication of Benedict XVI, now Pope Emeritus, prompted the need to choose his successor, who will become the 266th Pope.