Pope calls for 'ecology of man'

 Pope Benedict has sparked controversy in a speech he made yesterday in which he said the defence of heterosexuality was as important as saving the world's rainforests.

Speaking in his end of year address to the Curia, the Holy Father said the church viewed the distinction between men and women as central to human nature, and "asks that this order, set down by creation, be respected".

He said: "the Church should protect man from the destruction of himself. A sort of ecology of man is needed. The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less."

Pope Benedict said that modern theories on gender "lead towards the definitive emancipation of man from creation and the creator".

Rev Sharon Ferguson from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said the remarks were "totally irresponsible". She told the Press Association: "It is comments like this that justify gay-bashing. There are people around the world being killed purely and simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

Father Frederico Lombardi, from the Vatican press office said this morning, that the Pope had not wished specifically to attack homosexuality or sex change operations in his speech. "He was speaking more generally about gender theories which overlook the fundamental difference in creation between men and women and focus instead on the role of cultural conditioning."

Christina Odone, former editor of the Catholic Herald, told the BBC she felt it was unfortunate the Pope picked this topic for his end of year speech. With the world entering into a major recession, she said "people are crying out for guidance", and it would have been an opportunity to speak about Catholic teaching on social issues and economics, she said.

During his speech the Pope also commented on World Youth Day, stressing that it was should not be seen as a kind of "ecclesiastical rock festival with the Pope as the star." The event was the fruition of "a long exterior and interior path," he said.

Source: VIS/BBC