Gay men will be admitted into Roman Catholic seminaries to train as to become priests if they can prove that they are only “transitionally gay”, that they have been celibate for a minimum of three years.

The Vatican report which was commissioned by the Pope, Benedict XIV, says that the church will ban gays who: “publicly manifest their homosexuality or show an overwhelming attraction” to homosexual culture even if it is only intellectually”.

The document goes onto say: “Candidates who show a homosexual tendency will not be allowed into the priesthood unless they can demonstrate that they have been able to remain chaste for at least three years.”

Conservative Catholics have publicly welcomed the Pope’s stance as an important stage in the reform of the priesthood, particularly in the United States, where they allege some seminaries have become venues for a thriving gay subculture.

However, some in the Church believe that the document risks alienating gay priests who may be well suited to the vocation. “I have no doubt that God does call homosexuals to the priesthood, and they are among the most dedicated and impressive priests I have met,” Father Timothy Radcliffe, former master of the Dominican order, told the Catholic weekly, The Tablet.

The gay rights group Stonewall expressed sadness at the bar on practising gay men from becoming priests. The charity’s Chief Executive, Ben Summerskill said, “it’s deeply sad that the Vatican should be indulging in this offensive posturing. Expressions of prejudice by church leaders both abroad and in Britain validate the discrimination that gay people face on a daily basis.”