In a recent letter to LGBT activist groups in India, the Archbishop of Mumbai has said he would advise priests to be more sensitive while referring to gay people in public sermons, affirming “to say those with other sexual orientations are sinners is wrong.”

Cardinal Oswald Gracias’ statement came in response to a letter from Queer Azaadi Mumbai (QAM) about a sermon at a church in Goregaon, north of Mumbai, where the priest described being gay as “a great sin” and opposed same-sex marriage.

The sermon at St Thomas Church had taken place just a day before Pope Francis issued a statement in which he said: “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Cardinal Gracias, in his letter dated August 31, said: “Going by the data in the letter, some of what the priest said is alright and some part is inappropriate. The Church does not accept gay marriage because the Bible teaches us that God willed marriage to be between man and woman.

“On the other hand, to say that those with other sexual orientations are sinners is wrong. I do think we must be sensitive in our homilies [sermons] and how we speak in public and I will so advise our priests.”

Members of QAM said they were satisfied with the response.

A parishioner of the Goregaon Church and member of QAM who had attended the sermon said: “The Archbishop’s response was very reassuring for the community. It gives me confidence as a member of the Church that I will not be discriminated against.”

Harish Iyer, who is a prominent LGBT activist in India, said: “We are grateful to the church for categorically stating that they are not against homosexuality. The Archbishop of Mumbai has set a benchmark for everyone else.”

In Pope Francis’ speech in July, 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.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalised because of this, but that they must be integrated into society,” he said.