Melinda Gates has said that she is “optimistic” the Church will change its teaching on contraception.

Mrs Gates, who was raised Catholic, said she had “agreed to disagree” with the Church on the issue, claiming that contraception was “one of the greatest anti-poverty innovations the world has ever known.”

In a BBC interview, Gates said her charity, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, worked “very extensively with the Catholic Church” and has had “many discussions with them, because we have a shared mission around social justice and anti-poverty”.

She added that Pope Francis had not changed Church teaching “yet”, but “these things take time”. She said she was “optimistic” the Church would change its teaching “over time”.

The Gates foundation last week co-hosted a summit in London on the issue of access to contraception in the developing world. Reuters says it expected to raise at least $2.5 billion.

At the same time Priti Patel, Britain’s secretary of state for international development, said the Government would increase aid for family planning and abortion by 25 per cent, spending £225 million over the next five years.

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