An Italian priest has been suspended from his parish after defending paedophilia on live television and attempting to blame victims for "seeking affection". Don Gino Flaim, of the San Giuseppe and Pio X parish in the northern Italian town of Trento, claimed on air that he "understands paedophilia" whereas "I'm not sure about homosexuality".

"Unfortunately there are children who seek affection because they don't receive it at home and I understand that some priests can give up," he said on La7 channel. "Paedophilia is a sin, and like all sins has to be accepted, also." He went on affirming that homosexuality "is a disease".

The statement comes as Pope Francis opened a synod of Roman Catholic bishops focusing on family issues amid an unprecedented row over the church's attitudes and dogmas on homosexuality. On 5 October, the Argentine pontiff urged the church to "move forward", saying it was not "a museum to keep or preserve".

Days before the key meeting of 300 church leaders, Poland-born Vatican priest Krzysztof Charamsa announced he was in a gay relationship, saying he wanted to challenge the institution's "backward" attitude to homosexuality.

After the televised remarks, Don Gino Flaim was suspended from his role in the parish. The priest said in a statement that his words "do not represent the positions of Trento archdiocese and the general sentiment of the parish".