The Vatican has distanced itself from a cardinal after he said that gays and transsexuals “will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan's remarks first appeared on an Italian conservative Catholic website called pontifex.roma on Wednesday.

“Transsexuals and homosexuals will never enter the kingdom of heaven and it is not me who says this, but Saint Paul,” he 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,” he responded when asked if people are born gay.

Barragan is the former bishop of Zacatecas, Mexico. Until recently, he served as President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers at the Vatican.

The Vatican distanced itself from Barragan's comments, saying the website was not an authority on Catholic thinking “on complex and delicate issues such as homosexuality.” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said people with “homosexual tendencies” have a “disorder” and should not be subjected to discrimination.

The Italian gay rights group Arcigay also responded to the remarks: “Yes, it's true, we won't ever get into your heaven, which is a murky and unjust place.”