Cardinal Peter Turkson has that said LGBT people should not be criminalised because they have committed no crime.

He has often been tipped as a possible contender to be Africa’s first pope, after Benedict 16.

In an interview with the BBC’s ‘Hardtalk’, Cardinal Turkson added that, in regard to homosexuality, “it’s time to begin education, to help people understand what this reality, this phenomenon is”.

Last month, Pope Francis suggested he would be open to having the Catholic Church bless same-sex couples.

His views are at odds with those of Catholic bishops in Ghana, who say homosexuality is “despicable”.

According to him, changes within the Catholic Church should not be “something to be imposed on cultures which are not yet ready to accept stuff like that”.

Several African nations have recently adopted legislation condemning homosexuality.

In July, Ghanaian MPs backed measures in a proposed bill, which has still not completed its passage through parliament, that would make identifying as LGBT punishable with a three-year prison sentence.

People who campaign for LGBT rights in Ghana could also face up to 10 years in jail. Gay sex is already against the law and carries a three-year prison sentence.