Don Andrea Gallo, known as the “street priest” for his community work, and who called for an openly gay man to replace Pope Benedict XVI, has died at the age of 84.

In March, before the appointment of Pope Francis II, Father Gallo 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 paedophilia.”

On Wednesday, Nichi Vendola, president of the Freedom Ecology Left (SEL) party, eulogised Father Gallo on Twitter.

“Don Andrea Gallo, child of God, travelling companion, father, brother, friend, you will always be in our hearts, our struggles, our utopias”.

Father Gallo, a staunch liberal, once smoked marijuana in public to protest against drugs laws