The Vatican has issued an indirect rebuke to a Catholic cardinal who said gays and trans people could not enter heaven.

Javier Lozano Barragan, a leading Catholic cardinal, said gay people are not born that way and were “an insult to God”.

Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said the website Barragan made the comments on was not considered to be an authority on “complex and delicate issues such as homosexuality”.

Lombardi said the official Vatican stance was that while homosexual acts are sinful, gay people have a disorder and should be treated with respect.

The Times reported that it was “highly unusual” for the church to indirectly criticise a high-ranking Vatican official.

Barragan had said: “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.

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

Citing Saint Paul’s epistle to the Romans, which he claimed said men should not sleep with other men, Barragan added that gays and trans people would never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Italian gay rights group Arcigay said: “Yes, it’s true, we won’t ever get into your heaven, which is a murky and unjust place.”