Sex change operations and surrogacy are “grave threats” to human dignity, the Vatican has declared in a new document that sets out its position on a number of social issues.

In a 20-page declaration that has been in the works for five years, the Vatican also repeats its rejection of “gender theory”.

The publication, approved by Pope Francis, says God created man and woman as biologically different, separate beings, and that people must not tinker with that plan or try to “make oneself God”.

“It follows that any sex-change intervention, as a rule, risks threatening the unique dignity the person has received from the moment of conception,” according to the document, entitled Infinite Dignity.

It distinguishes between transitioning surgeries, which it rejects, and “genital abnormalities” that are present at birth or that develop later, which it says can be “resolved” with the help of healthcare professionals.

However, while rejecting “gender theory”, the document, by the Vatican’s doctrine office, is critical of countries which criminalise homosexuality.

The declaration denounces “as contrary to human dignity the fact that, in some places, not a few people are imprisoned, tortured, and even deprived of the good of life solely because of their sexual orientation”.

It also restates well-known Catholic doctrine opposing abortion and euthanasia, and adds that surrogacy violates both the dignity of the surrogate mother and the child.

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The document – largely a repackaging of previously articulated Vatican positions – has been cast as something of a nod to conservative thinkers within the Catholic Church by the new prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Argentine Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandes.

Cardinal Fernandes, a close confidant of Pope Francis, previously authored a document approving blessings for same-sex couples that sparked criticism from conservative bishops around the world, especially in Africa.

The publication of the document comes after Pope Francis called for a global ban on the “despicable” practice of surrogacy.

The pontiff said surrogate motherhood was a “grave violation” of the dignity of the woman and the child and appealed to the international community “to prohibit this practice universally”.

In a speech listing what he believed were threats to peace and human dignity, he also highlighted the war in Ukraine, the Israel-Hamas conflict, the “immoral” production of nuclear weapons, the escalating climate crisis and migration.