Christine Quinn, the gay Democratic candidate who’s leading the field to become the next mayor of New York City says Pope Francis’ latest comments on gay people represents “enormous progress.”

Appearing on CNN during Tuesday, Ms Quinn said Pope Francis deserves a lot of credit for saying he won’t judge priests over their sexual orientation.

The 47-year-old Catholic said she would like to see more changes in the Catholic Church but added the Pope’s remarks were a step forward.

In a significant move on Monday, Pope Francis declared gay people should not be judged or marginalised.

Speaking to reporters during a plane journey back to the Vatican following his trip to Brazil, he said: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

However, he also referred to the Catholic Church’s universal Catechism, which states that while being gay is not sinful, homosexual acts are.

In response, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “Pope Francis has offered a change of tone in Vatican pronouncements on gay people but not a change in substance.”