London: Homosexuals and transsexuals will never go to heaven, says a leading cardinal.
In his comments, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan said Roman Catholic Church still regards homosexuality as an ``insult to God``, and added people were not born gay, but chose to embrace homosexuality of their own free will.
"Transsexuals and homosexuals will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven and it is not me who says this, but Saint Paul," the Telegraph quoted Barragan as saying.
"People are not born homosexual, they become homosexual, for different reasons: education issues or because they did not develop their own identity during adolescence," the 76-year-old added.
He said perhaps they aren``t guilty but by acting against the dignity of the body they will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Cardinal Barragan recently retired as head of the Vatican``s Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers but still holds influential positions on several Church committees.
He quoted a passage from Paul``s epistle to the Romans, which says "men committing indecent acts with other men".
"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," he added.
However, cardinal``s comments are prompting a rebuke from the Vatican.
Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said the conservative website on which the cardinal made his comments should not be considered an authority on Catholic thinking "on complex and delicate issues such as homosexuality".
He quoted from the official Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, which says homosexual acts are a "disorder" but acknowledges that many people have "innate homosexual tendencies" and should be treated with respect and not be subject to discrimination.
An Italian gay rights group, Arcigay, has criticised Cardinal Barragan for his comments.
He said in a statement "It``s true, we won``t ever get into your heaven, which is a murky and unjust place".