The head of the Roman Catholic Church has claimed that the existence of gay people is as great a threat to humanity as the destruction of the rainforest.

Pope Benedict XVI also attacked transgender people and claimed that a “blurring” of genders would lead to the extinction of the human race.

The pontiff made his remarks in an “end of year” address to the Vatican’s central administration, the Curia.

The Pope said behaviour beyond traditional heterosexual relations is “a destruction of God’s work.”

Benedict also said man must be protected “from the destruction of himself” and urged respect for the “nature of the human being as man and woman.”

“The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less.”

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement was outraged at this latest Papal outburst.

“It is comments like this that justify homophobic bullying that goes on in schools and it is comments like this that justify gay bashing,” said LGCM chief executive Rev Sharon Ferguson.

“There are still so many instances of people being killed around the world, including in western society, purely and simply because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity.

“When you have religious leaders like that making that sort of statement then followers feel they are justified in behaving in an aggressive and violent way because they feel that they are doing God’s work in ridding the world of these people.”

The UK based gay humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust has described the Pope’s statement as clear evidence of paranoia.

“This must be the most ourtrageous and bizarre claim yet made by the Pope who has already got a well-deserved reputation as one the most viciously homophobic world leaders on a par with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe,” said PTT secretary and trustee George Broadhead.

“The Vatican has already reinforced its anti-gay reputation by strongly opposing a UN declaration calling for an end to discrimination against gays, but this latest Papal outburst is clear evidence of an obsession about homosexuality which is tantamount to paranoia.”

Last week the Vatican opposed a statement at the United Nations reiterating the universal human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans people.

According to Roman Catholics, gay people are disordered and called to a life of celibacy.