Senior clerics have called on the Church to adopt a more positive stance on homosexuality.
A preliminary report written by bishops during a Vatican synod said homosexuals had “gifts and qualities to offer”.
The report does not challenge the Church’s long-held opposition to same-sex marriage, but some gay rights groups hailed it as a breakthrough.
More than 200 bishops have been taking part in the synod since October 5. It was convened by Pope Francis to debate controversial issues such as abortion, contraception, homosexuality and divorce.
Monday’s report, issued half-way through the two-week meeting, said: “Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community.
“Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?”
Pope Francis’ emphasis on concentrating upon positive rather than negative aspects of human sexuality seems to have won over many bishops attending the synod.
Pope Francis told journalists returning from a Catholic Youth Festival in Rio de Janeiro last year: “If a person seeks God and has goodwill, then who am I to judge?”
The document adds: “Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions, it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.”
The report has drawn positive responses from pro-gay campaigners.
Human Rights Campaign, a leading US gay rights organisation, said the document set a “dramatic new tone”. Meanwhile, London-based Catholic gay rights groups Quest called parts of it a “breakthrough”.
However Voice Of The Family, a conservative Roman Catholic organisation, rejected the interim report as a “betrayal”.
The group’s co-founder John Smeaton called it “one of the worst official documents drafted in Church history”.
Last year, a survey launched by Pope Francis suggested that the majority of Catholics rejected Church teaching on issues such as sex and contraception.