Pope Benedict says he is opposed to “unjust discrimination” against gay men and lesbians.

In a statement read Thursday – Human Rights Day – at the United Nations, a representative of the Holy Father told a human rights panel that he was opposed to “violations of human rights against homosexual persons.”

“The Holy See continues to oppose all grave violations of human rights against homosexual persons, such as the use of the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment,” Rev. Philip J. Bene, the Vatican's legal attache to the United Nations, told the panel referring to the central government of the Roman Catholic Church in Rome, which is headed by the Pope.

“The Holy See also opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person.”

The Pope's statement is worded to give him sufficient latitude to disagree on gay marriage, an issue he continues to rally against, especially in Spain, where Socialists legalized the institution in 2005.

Last year, the Vatican was widely criticized for its opposition to a resolution calling for the universal decriminalization of being gay. It is illegal to be gay in more than 80 countries, according to the United Nations. Vatican officials said they could not support the resolution because removing such laws might lead to greater acceptance of gay marriage.

While condemning the killing of gay men and lesbians, the statement calls on governments to “respect the rights of all persons and to work to promote their inherent dignity and worth.” Adding that “the Holy See's position on the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity remains well know.”

The statement was widely seen as a denunciation of an anti-gay bill currently before the Uganda Parliament that includes a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality,” a classification that includes HIV-positive gay persons and repeat offenders.