The Vatican has released a new English version of a draft report on attitudes to homosexuals, altering content and diminishing the welcoming tone in the Italian original.

Thursday’s new draft marks a new twist in the contentious debate over the Vatican's ground-breaking overture to gays.

The initial report, prepared after a week of discussions at an assembly of 200 bishops, has been highly criticised by many conservative figures within the Catholic church, primarily because of the welcome extended to gays.

The original text contained an entire section "Welcoming homosexuals", that asked the church to provide gays a "fraternal space" and said their unions constitute a "precious support" for the partners.

The new English version, titled instead "Providing for homosexual persons", speaks only of "fellowship" and "valuable support".

The Vatican said English-speaking bishops requested the changes.

'Mixed bag'

Francis DeBernardo of the New Ways Ministry, a leading US Catholic gay rights group, said the new development was a "mixed bag".

"It would have been nicer if they kept the earlier version, but the fact that were still speaking of 'valuable support' is positive," DeBernardo told Al Jazeera.

He said the language showed a general attempt by the bishops to be more accommodating to gay people and that this was only the beginning of a process to accept homosexuals.

The Vatican document was the basis for discussion at the two-week bishops' assembly, known as a synod. It will serve for further reflection among Catholics of another, definitive synod next year.

John Smeaton, a co-founder of the conservative group Voice of the Family, had earlier said: "Those who are controlling the synod have betrayed Catholic parents worldwide."

He called it "one of the worst official documents drafted in Church history".

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies