“God created man and woman. God created the world like this and we are doing the exact opposite.”

The Vatican have released a transcript of his comments made during a private meeting with bishops in Poland while on a pilgrimage there.

“Today, in schools they are teaching this to children – to children – that everyone can choose their gender,” the pontiff said.

He called the idea “terrible” and said it represents the very “annihilation of man as the image of God.”

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups expressed dismay after Pope Francis said that schoolchildren are being taught they can choose their gender as part of what he called an “ideological colonization.”

Sarah McBride, a spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign, said that Francis’ words were “not only hurtful, and frankly harmful, but really demonstrating a misunderstanding of what it means to be transgender.”

DignityUSA, an organisation for LGBT Catholics, issued a statement Wednesday saying that the pontiffs words on gender identity “put lives at risk,” because they could encourage violence or bullying toward transgender youth in many countries.

Earlier this year he took the extraordinary step of calling on the Roman Catholic Church to apologise to gay people for the way they have been treated by Christians.

While Pope Francis is seen by many as progressive in terms of acceptance of the LGBT community, he seems to be having trouble living up to that position.

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