Ghanaian Turkson, currently second favourite in the betting to be the next mortal on earth with a direct line to god, said in an interview with CNN: “African traditional systems kind of protect or have protected its population against this tendency.

“Because in several communities, in several cultures in Africa homosexuality or for that matter any affair between two sexes of the same kind, are not countenanced in our society.

“So that cultural taboo, that tradition has been there. It has served to keep it out.”

Speaking about his chances of a non-European the becoming the next Holy See, Turkson said: “It is certainly possible to have a Cardinal come from the Southern part of the globe.

“There are churchmen from there certainly capable of exercising leadership.”

Sexual abuse victims groups have spoken out against Turkson’s comments.

The Survivors Network pointed out that the link between homosexuality and child abuse was a fallacy, and suggested that the less vigorous legal and justice systems in Africa resulted in under reporting of child abuse.

Homosexuality is illegal in 37 countries in Africa, is punishable by death in four, and results in a life sentence in three.

Commentators have suggested that Turkson’s comments have crystalised the decision facing the Catholic church in appointing a new Pope.

As religion’s force continues to wane in Europe there is a clamour among many progressive Catholics to modernise adopting a more liberal reformist ethos in an attempt to reboot the church’s appeal in Europe.

However many prominent Catholic voices are content to allow the church’s power to diminish in Europe and, by not compromising what they see as its traditional values, build on its growth and success in Latin America and Africa.