A senior Vatican official has written to every bishop of the Roman Catholic Church reiterating that the ban on gay men entering seminaries to train for the priesthood applies to all such institutions.

Pope Benedict XVI approved the letter from the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

It confirms that candidates from the holy orders and missionary seminaries and “all houses of formation for the priesthood, including those under the “Dicasteries for Eastern Churches, for the Evangelisation of Peoples, and for the Institutes of Consecrated Life” are subject to the gay ban.

The Cardinal said he was responding to various queries about the rules, which were set out under Benedict in the 2005 document Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocation with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders.

“The Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture’.

“Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women.

“One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.

“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.”

The Vatican’s current stance on homosexuality dates back to 1961 where a ruling said that being gay was a “perverse inclination.”