Pope Benedict XVI has identified gay marriage as one of the biggest threats to the traditional family and “the future of humanity itself”.

The comments were made in a new year address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican, Reuters reports.

Addressing social and economic issues, he told diplomats from nearly 180 countries that pride of place goes to the family “based on the marriage of a man and a woman”.

“This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society,” he said.

“Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.”

The Vatican and international Catholic officials have long fought moves to legalise gay marriage around the world and opposed social acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex relationships.

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