A Vatican diplomat has told the United Nations Human Rights Council that people who criticise same-sex relations are increasingly being attacked and vilified for their views.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, who is the permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, said the Roman Catholic Church deeply believed that human sexuality was a gift reserved for married heterosexual couples.

“People are being attacked for taking positions that do not support sexual behaviour between people of the same sex. When they express their moral beliefs or beliefs about human nature … they are stigmatised and worse – they are vilified, and prosecuted,” Archbishop Tomasi said.

Archbishop Tomasi claimed the Vatican believed in the inherent dignity of all human beings and condemned all violence against people because of their sexual orientation or behaviour.

According to the Guardian, Archbishop Tomasi was widely criticised in September 2009 following a speech in which he sought to favourably compare the Catholic Church’s record on child sex abuse with that of other religious organisations.

The archbishop read out a defiant and provocative statement, issued following a meeting of the UN human rights council in Geneva and the Holy See, which said the majority of Catholic clergy who committed such acts were not paedophiles but ‘homosexuals’ attracted to sex with adolescent males.