A priest who thinks Hurricane Katrina was “divine retribution” on New Orleans for being tolerant towards gay and lesbian people has been made a bishop.

Fr Gerhard Wagner, who has also branded the Harry Potter books as the work of Satan, has been made auxiliary bishop of Linz, Austria by Pope Benedict XVI.

His interpretation of Hurricane Katrina, which devestated the city of New Orleans in 2005, as a punishment from God for homosexuality was shared by several colourful homophobes.

Rev Fred Phelps of Wesboro Baptist Church, best-known for picketing funerals with signs reading “God Hates Fags,” also blamed Katrina on gays.

Maurice Mills, a Democratic Unionist councillor in Ballymena, claimed in April 2006:

“The media failed to report that the hurricane occurred just two days prior to the annual homosexual event called the Southern Decadence Festival, which the previous year had attracted an estimated 125,000 people.

“Surely, this is a warning to nations where such wickedness is increasingly promoted and practiced. This abominable and filthy practice and sodomy has resulted in the great continent of Africa being riddled with AIDS, all at great cost to the nations and innocent children.”

In December the Pope claimed that the existence of gay people is as great a threat to humanity as the destruction of the rainforest.

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.”