A priest who claimed Hurricane Katrina was “divine retribution” on New Orleans for being tolerant towards gay and lesbian people has said he will decline an appointment as a bishop.

Fr Gerhard Wagner, who has also branded the Harry Potter books as the work of Satan, was named auxiliary bishop of Linz, Austria by Pope Benedict XVI earlier this month.

“Ever since I was nominated, I sensed opposition that often was carried out in a merciless and unkind way,” he told radio station Oe1.

The bishop of Linz said he was relieved that Fr Wagner would not be serving as his auxiliary.

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.”

100 protesters marched to the Italian Embassy in London on Saturday in solidarity with a simultaneous 30,000-strong demonstration in Rome.

Protesters in both cities were demanding that the Italian government cease appeasing the Vatican and stop giving it special legal and political privileges.