Several LGBT Catholic groups are calling for a new gay-friendly pope following news of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation as head of the Roman Catholic Church.
"We are praying, too, for LGBT Catholics and their families and friends, whose lives were made more difficult living under Benedict's reign both as pontiff and as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), where he served previously. For the last three decades, Benedict has been one of the main architect's of the Vatican's policies against LGBT people," New Ways Ministry said in a statement. New Ways is an LGBT rights ministry that seeks to "build bridges" between the LGBT community and the Catholic Church.
The group praised Benedict XVI for his dedication to the church and his intellectual life, but said that they are praying for a new pope that will "combine his intelligence with true and deep pastoral concern for the lives of the people of the world."
Hoping for a new pope who will be less conservative, the group said that they place their trust in the Holy Spirit to "guide our church in the days and years to come and that our faith, hope, and love will be strengthened by our next spiritual leader."
The 85-year-old Benedict XVI, who announced on Monday that he will step down from his position on Feb. 28 because of his advanced age, has often been called "God's Rottweiler" for his staunch defense of conservative Catholic principles, including traditional marriage.
"There is … a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union," the pope said during his Christmas speech in December.
"Such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society."
A number of countries around the world, including the United States, have been locked in a great internal debate over whether to legalize same-sex marriage, with mainstream Christian churches and conservatives often on the forefront of defending traditional marriage.
Equally Blessed, a coalition of Catholic organizations working on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families, have also expressed their wishes for a new pope that will be more gay-friendly than his predecessor.
"We join with Catholics around the world who are grateful that Pope Benedict XVI had the foresight and humility to resign his office for the sake of the church to which he has given his life," the group said in a statement.
The LGBT group insisted that the church needs to take this opportunity "to turn away from his oppressive policies toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, and their families and friends, and develop a new understanding of the ways in which God is at work in the lives of faithful and loving people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."
Conservative Catholic commentators have meanwhile praised Pope Benedict XVI's life and ministry with Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights saying that "the pope's legacy is secure."
"Pope Benedict XVI's willingness to step aside comes as a surprise this Monday morning. What is not surprising is his humility. Indeed, it is one of his most defining characteristics, one that separates him from today's ego-centric public figures," Donohue wrote, as he included seven reasons why he believes Pope Benedict XVI has led a successful papacy.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said that he was surprised at Benedict XVI's resignation, but affirmed that he "loves this pope."
"On the other hand, my appreciation for him, which was already high, is enhanced a bit, because with this sense of realism that he has for the office of the successor of St. Peter that he says 'You know, I may not be up to it now, and perhaps I can best serve Jesus and His people by stepping aside.' So I have to admire him," Cardinal Dolan said in an interview on Monday.
Dr. Corné J. Bekker, chair of the Dept. of Biblical Studies and Christian Ministry at Regent University in Virginia Beach, said in a statement sent to The Christian Post that the pope's resignation, the first one in nearly 600 years, will have significant worldwide effect in the Catholic community.
Dr. Bekker noted that "so much recent damage has been done to the public perception and reception of church in the light of the challenges that this pontiff has faced; i.e. the various scandals of the abusive of minors, accusations of anti-Semitism, the leaking of confidential material from the pope's office, etc."
The professor argued that the Catholic Church now has "an unprecedented opportunity to communicate confidence and hope in the future of Christianity not only in the way that they respond to this development, but also in the possibility to elect a pope from non-European context where Catholicism continues to grow and flourish."