The first openly gay candidate for parliament in Malta has protested against the Pope’s hostility to homosexuality by leaving the Roman Catholic Church.

Dr.Ing. Patrick Attard contested last year’s general election for the Green Party in Malta, Alternattiva Demokratika.

He excommunicated himself from the Catholic Church at the Chancellor’s office in the Curia on Saturday.

The Pope was widely condemned after he said in an end of year sermon to senior Church leaders just before Christmas that homosexuality is a destruction of God’s work.

Last month the Vatican objected to a statement at the UN which restated that universal human rights apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people.

Dr Attard said gay priests should follow his lead and abandon the Church.

“I do not want the government to assume I am part of this hate-preaching organisation just because I was baptised,” he said.

“Since the Curia does not want to disassociate itself from the Pope’s hateful remarks he preached on the 22nd December 2008, where he called homosexuality a destruction of God’s work, then there is no choice but to excommunicate myself publicly from this power and money-hungry institution.

“I would like to thank my parents for baptising me. I am certain they did this with the best intentions.

“However when one reads the documents written by the Vatican there is a lot of paranoia and even hatred towards gays.

“This is ongoing till today and can be viewed in Joseph’s Ratzinger’s writings (among others) and it is important to stand up and say: enough is enough.”

He also gave instructions about how others in Malta can leave the Church.

“The person who wishes to Excommunicate himself from the Church should make an appointment with the Curia’s Chancellor, take his/her Identity Card and write a declaration that he left the Catholic Church.

“This declaration should include the place and date of baptism. The declaration is also signed by the Chancellor on behalf of the Catholic Church.

“The date of baptism is written on the Baptism Certificate which can be obtained from the Parish Office of the village where the cermony took place.”

Dr Attard claimed that all political parties in Malta, the smallest nation in the EU, are afraid to criticise the Church “due to the potential loss of votes and Malta is considered to have more than 96% Catholics.

“Just because of the number of people baptised, it is important to close this chapter by excommunication so as we are not erroneously considered as Catholics.”

He claimed that the Roman Catholic Church should be “held accountable” for the suffering of gay people in Malta and “is to be held indirectly responsible for a number of gay suicides in these islands.

“Trying to hide this fact would not allow us to learn from the past and help people today.”

The Roman Catholic Church’s representative at the United Nations led opposition to the statement on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people read out at the General Assembly last month.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore said the Vatican opposed the use of the phrases “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” in the statement as they have no definition in international law and are cultural concepts.

“The Holy See appreciates the attempts made to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as urge states to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them,” he said.

The Chuch claims that the statement, which was supported by 66 countries, including all 27 EU member states, “goes beyond this goal and instead gives rise to uncertainty in the law and challenges existing human rights norms.”

Despite the fact the statement is not legally binding, the Vatican claims it “would create serious uncertainty in the law as well as undermine the ability of states to enter into and enforce new and existing human-rights conventions and standards.”

Just before Christmas the Pope 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.

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