The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has called on the Catholic hierarchy to follow Pope Francis’ message, which indicated a softening of stance on gay issues.

Chad Griffin, the president of the HRC wrote an open letter on Friday addressed to the Knights of Columbus and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

On Thursday, Pope Francis 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.

“This is a remarkable moment,” wrote Griffin. “In the past, the pronouncements of some leaders in the Church hierarchy have given license to those who discriminate, hate and even commit violence against LGBT people.”

“So today, in light of the Pope’s remarkable interview, I urge you to end your organization’s public opposition to legal equality for LGBT people immediately. Doing anything less will put you in direct conflict with Pope Francis’ message of welcome and mercy—and create an even greater gulf between you and the broad majority of the American Catholic laity, who support their LGBT neighbors’ freedom to marry the person they love in a civil ceremony.”

The HRC has previously noted that the majority of Catholics in the US support LGBT equality.

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.