By Simon Caldwell
Last updated at 12:30 AM on 29th November 2008
Roman Catholic priests have been banned from using 'heterosexist' language in their churches in case they offend gay worshippers.
They have been told by their bishops not to assume that every churchgoer is a heterosexual and to reflect this 'in language and conversation'.
'Remember that homophobic jokes and asides can be cruel and hurtful - a careless word can mean another experience of rejection and pain,' say the bishops in a leaflet advising priests and worshippers how to be more welcoming to gay people.
Activists say any moves by the Catholic Church to be more tolerant of homosexuality are undermined by Pope Benedict XVI's opposition to gay marriage
Priests are also encouraged to put up posters advertising 'support services' for homosexuals, a move bound to infuriate many Catholics who believe gay sexual activity to be sinful.
The advice was welcomed by gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell as a 'positive initiative which will bring great comfort to gay Catholics and their families'.
He said: 'Its sympathetic, understanding message is a big improvement on the past homophobia of some Catholic pronouncements on homosexuality.'
However, he said the 'laudable change of tone' was undermined by the 'homophobic content of the Catholic Catechism' and by Pope Benedict XVI's opposition to gay marriage.
The advice was criticised by Lynette Burrows, a Catholic commentator, as 'pitiful'.
She said it was ridiculous that Church leaders appeared to be ' grovelling' to a secular agenda.
'It is things like this that are enfeebling the Church at the moment - the concentration on things that don't matter and missing the things that do,' she said.
'What is pitiful as well as demeaning is that the Church is running after homosexual opinion but nothing is going to make homosexuals like the Catholic Church.
'This is because the Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is a disorder and whatever the bishops say will not change that.'