Gay groups in Italy and across the world have reacted to Pope Benedict XVI's shock resignation today (11 February).
On 28 February, the Roman Catholic leader will leave his post and the Vatican will decide on his successor.
'After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,' Benedict said.
Giuseppina la Delfa, gay family group Famiglie Arcobaleno's president, told GSN she is optimistic about the new pope.
‘I simply think that this Pope is obsessed by homosexuality and he acknowledged that a new Church is needed by our society,’ la Delfa said.
‘I’m optimistic, I think that the new Pope could only be a better one. The Vatican has understood that they have made a lot of mistakes, on human rights, on LGBT rights, on condoms, on new families and on modern needs of contemporary people.
‘Now we need a Pope able to listen to everyone, a Pope who understands that the churches are running out of people because of a blind policy and that the Church can not be obsessed by homosexuality.’
Imma Battaglia, a gay rights Italian activist and left-wing politician, told GSN: 'I think that good news are coming, the Catholic Church has now understood that we need equality and that the Catholic hierarchy must listen to everyone.
‘But I also think that behind this resignation there’s the will to hide a scandal. Maybe something linked to money or, why not, to love.
‘This Pope has made too many mistakes, but now he has been overwhelmed by the French and English votes on gay marriage and by the LGBT people’s requests, that’s the truth.
‘The new Pope will be a better one. Nothing else is possible. Maybe a woman, a lesbian woman, why not? This is a joke, but I want to say that a new age has started.’
It is not so optimistic everywhere in the country. Speaking to GSN, Catholic gay activist Aurelio Mancuso said: ‘I know the Church very well and I know that nothing will change, at least not now.
‘The cardinals’ conference is very conservative. It’s influenced by African and South American cardinals, they are against renovation and modernity.
‘Then, we have to consider that Benedict XVI is still alive and that the new Pope will not be able to go against the doctrine of a man who’s still alive.
‘What the Pope said today is also that he is not as strong as the Church wants. The Catholic hierarchy needs a stronger Pope, someone able to impose his ideas and his doctrine.
‘However, after this resignation the Church will change forever. Now everyone will know that no one is infallible, the Pope neither.’
The former leader of Italian gay rights group Arcigay Franco Grillini told GSN that 'finally, one of the biggest enemies of LGBT people has resigned.'
'But I know them very well and I’m sure that the next Pope will be as extremist as Benedict XVI was,' he said. 'The cardinals are obsessed by homosexuality and by sex in general. Nothing is going to change.
‘He blamed and criticized same-sex marriage, it’s true. But the worst thing he has done was voting against the decriminalization of homosexuality in the United Nations’ assembly.
‘He is ill, it’s true, but LGBT people are sick of him.’
This is also true of gay people across the world, with Andy Wasley, from UK-based gay rights charity Stonewall, saying: ‘We were sorry to hear of Pope Benedict’s ill health.
'Many gay Catholics will no doubt hope his successor takes Mark 12:31 a little more to heart.’
Mark 12:31 reads: "'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than."