Javier Lozano Barragan, a leading Catholic cardinal, has said that gay and trans people “will never enter the kingdom of heaven”.

The cardinal cited Saint Paul’s epistle to the Romans, which he claimed said men should not sleep with other men.

Speaking to news agency Ansa, Barragan added: “People are not born homosexual, they become homosexual, for different reasons: education issues or because they did not develop their own identity during adolescence.

“It may not be their fault, but acting against nature and the dignity of the human body is an insult to God.”

Howver, Barragan, the retired head of the Vatican’s Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, added that this was not a reason to discriminate against gay and trans people.

He said: “Homosexuality is therefore a sin, but this does not justify any form of discrimination. God alone has the right to judge.

“We on earth cannot condemn, and as human beings we all have the same rights.”

In 2006, Barragan reportedly said that condoms could be the lesser of two evils of one partner in a marriage was HIV-positive.

He subsequently backtracked on this and the Vatican reiterated its stance that condom use was unacceptable in any circumstance.