A new Spanish cardinal appointed by Pope Francis has begun his tenure by describing homosexuality as a deficiency and suggesting the need for gay people to undergo corrective treatment.

Fernando Aguilar, 84, made the comments in an interview with Malaga newspaper Sur, published a week after he was named as one of 19 new cardinals.

Speaking to reporters in July 2013 during a plane journey back to the Vatican following his trip to Brazil, Pope Francis said that gay people should not be judged or marginalised and should be integrated into society.

When asked about the comments, Cardinal Aguilar replied: “It is one thing to be welcoming and kind to a homosexual person and another to morally justify the exercise of homosexuality. I can tell someone that they have a deficiency – which is what it is – but this does not justify not appreciating or helping them. I think that this is the Pope’s position, and the same with regard to homosexual marriage or divorce. We will be by their side, but the Church cannot change the demands of morality.”

He added: “With all due respect, I say that homosexuality is a deficient way to manifest one’s sexuality, because the latter has a structure and a goal, which is procreation. Our bodies contain many deficiencies. I have high blood pressure, but should I get angry because someone tells me so? It is a deficiency I need to correct any way I can.”