Melinda Gates has said she is 'optimistic' that Pope Francis will change Church teaching on contraception.
Gates, who was raised as a Catholic and is the wife of the Microsoft founder Bill Gates, said that contraception was 'one of the greatest anti-poverty innovations the world has ever known' and that she had 'agreed to disagree' with the Church on the issue.
In an interview with the BBC, Gates said that her charity, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, works '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: 'I think what this Pope sees is that if we are going to lift people out of poverty, you have to do the right thing for women, and so we have agreed at this point to disagree.'
She went on to say that Pope Francis has not changed Church teaching 'yet', but 'these things take time,' and that she was 'optimistic' the Church would change its teaching 'over time'.
The Foundation is currently co-hosting an international summit in London on the subject of accessing contraception in the developing world.
According to Reuters, it expects to raise at least $2.5 billion, and will invest $375 million of that in 'family planning' programmes over the next four years.
In 2012, the Vatican newspaper sharply criticised Gates after she announced that the couple's foundation would give $560 million over the next eight years to increase women's access to a contraception.
Under the headline 'birth control and disinformation', the article on the front page of the July 29 edition of L'Osservatore Romano said that Gates was free to make charitable donations to whomever she wants, but not to spread incorrect information.
In an interview with the Guardian, Gates had identified herself as a practising Catholic who 'struggled' with the idea of opposing Church teaching to promote a project aimed at giving 120 million women in developing countries access to contraceptives by 2020.
Herfresh comments come as theSecretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, announced that the Government will increase aid for family planning and abortion services by 25 per cent, at a cost of over £1.1 billion.
The Government will spend £225 million per year over the next five years providing contraception for developing countries, including abortion services.
Pro-life campaigners have condemned the move. Anne Scanlan, director of the charity Life, said: 'This is absolutely shocking. A recent ComRes poll showed that 65 per cent of the public oppose UK taxpayer money being spent on abortions overseas. We call on the Government not to proceed with this new support for the family planning and abortion industry and to instead pursue global initiatives to support women in pregnancy.'