New pope should be more gay-friendly, says rights group

The world's oldest existing homosexual rights group said Monday it hoped Pope Benedict XVI's successor would be friendlier to gays and lesbians.

"We're not sad," the Amsterdam-based COC's spokesman Philip Tijsma told AFP after the 85-year-old pontiff's shock resignation announcement.

"All we hope for is that the new pope will be a little kinder towards LGBT's (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders) in the Church, but also in the world in general," he said.

The new pope "should be less obsessed with the question of homosexuality," Tijsma added, saying Pope Benedict repeatedly spoke out against gay marriage.

Benedict called in a December speech for Catholics to "fight" to maintain the traditional family consisting of a father, mother and children, saying a transformation was threatening mankind itself.

"The Catholic Church recently said it wanted to fight discrimination," said Tijsma. "We believe this is a great opportunity."

"The new pope should focus in particular on problems encountered in Russia and Uganda, where gay rights are constantly being violated," he added.

The Netherlands in 2001 became the first-ever country to legalise gay marriage and several other countries have followed suit.