A topless protest interupted Pope Benedict’s weekly prayers at the Vatican.
Four activists from the Ukrainian women’s rights group Femen hit out at the Catholic Church’s opposition to gay marriage.
They stripped off their shirts to reveal the words “Shut up” and “In Gay We Trust” printed on their bare chests and backs.
The protest was quickly interrupted by Italian police who, after a struggle, managed to carry away the four protesters.
Most in the crowds looked on in shock, but one woman was so enraged by the topless protesters she hit one with her umbrella and she called them “devilish and diabolical”.
Activist leader Inna Shevchenko said: “Today we go with a message to the Pope to shut up his mouth and not to give his advices to those people who decide to legalise gay marriage. Today we are here to protest against homophobia.”
The Vatican has become increasingly vocal against gay marriage and adoptions in recent months. The Pope strongly reaffirmed the Church’s opposition to gay marriage in December, saying heterosexual marriage had an indispensable role in society.
The Vatican newspaper on Sunday stressed that children should be raised by a father and a mother after Italy’s top appeals court granted a gay mother custody of her son, prompting a debate over gay adoption.
Pope Benedict did not seem to notice the demonstration.