Rome’s Gay Center has said that the Pope is starting “a revolution” of open-mindedness towards gay issues, and that he as “ahead of many politicians” on such issues.

On Thursday, the Pope said the Roman Catholic Church had grown “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception – and that he was choosing to avoid discussing those subjects.

Responding was Fabrizio Marrazzo, a spokesman for the Gay Center, who said: “In these recent years, we have been accustomed to punitive (references) towards homosexual people by the Church.”

He said that only time would tell whether the comments represent more long-term changes of attitude in the church. He did continue, however, that they presented a potential for a dialog

“The words of Pope Francis are an opening to a new way of understanding the relationship between Catholic doctrine and life of people,” added Marrazzo. But “surely this Pope is ahead of many Italian politicians who refer to the Catholic tradition [as justification] to attack gays”.

Speaking to reporters in July during a plane journey back to the Vatican following his trip to Brazil, Pope Francis said that gay people should not be judged or marginalised and should be integrated into society.

It was a departure from a more strident tone – if not in doctrinal position – as he also referred to the Catholic Church’s universal Catechism, which states that while being gay is not sinful, homosexual acts are.

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” Pope Francis told La Civiltà Cattolica – after being asked about July’s comments. “I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”

Three years ago as cardinal he warned that efforts to legalise equal marriage in Argentina would “confuse and deceive the children of God.”

In June, Pope Francis warned the French against following “fashionable ideas” in relation to the country’s equal marriage law.