Dozens of gay Catholics had an audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican on Wednesday.

Pope Francis met with 50 gay Catholics at the Vatican on Wednesday. He is now the first Pope to welcome gay rights groups into the Vatican.

New Ways Ministry ministers to gay Catholics and promotes gay rights within the church. 50 of their members attended an audience with the Pope in St Peter’s Square on Wednesday.

Sister Jeannine Gramick, who led the pilgrimage to the Vatican, is the co-founder of New Ways Ministry. She said: “This is a sign of movement that’s due to the Francis effect.”

The move was not entirely progressive. A Vatican monsignor read out the list of the different groups of pilgrims in attendance in St. Peter’s Square, calling the group “a group of lay people accompanied by a sister” but did not specify that they were a gay rights group.

Francis is reputed to be a more accepting Pope than his predecessors. Last month he said same-sex marriage disfigures God’s plan, but now appears to be wanting to hear from gay rights groups.

The ministry told Reuters that went on pilgrimages to the Vatican during the papacies of Popes John Paul and Benedict they were ignored.

On this pilgrimage a US Bishop and top Vatican official backed their requested and they sat in the front section of the audience. They sang their hymn All Are Welcome which represented their desire for a more open-minded Church.

Sister Gramick said: “What this says is that there is movement in our Church, movement to welcome people from the outside closer to the inside.”