Gay rights campaigners protest at pope's prayer
VATICAN CITY - Agence France-Presse
Pope Benedict XVI (C) waves during his pastoral visit to St. Patrick Church on the outskirts of Rome December 16, 2012. REUTERS photoGay rights campaigners held a small protest near St Peter's Square on Sunday during Benedict XVI's weekly prayers after the pope said legalising gay marriage threatened the institution of marriage.
Around 15 activists held up colourful paper hearts with slogans written on them including "Gay Marriage", "Love Has No Barriers", "Talk About Love", "Homophobia = Death" and "Marry Peace!" One of the hearts read: "Love Thy Neighbour".
The protesters were prevented from accessing St Peter's Square, which was packed with tens of thousands of faithful for the traditional Angelus prayer on the third Sunday of Advent.
The protest came as thousands prepared to take to the streets in France Sunday in support of a government proposal to legalise gay marriage that is fiercely opposed by sections of the opposition right, Roman Catholic bishops and other religious leaders.
In a message intended for World Peace Day on January 1, the pope on Friday reiterated the Catholic Church's position against gay marriage.
He called for promotion of "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.
"Such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society," he said.