The Vatican’s Secretary of State lamented Ireland’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage as harmful to the family and society.
In remarks made Tuesday evening at a conference in Rome, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said he “was deeply saddened by the result” of the May 22 referendum.
“The Church must take account of this reality, but in the sense that it must strengthen its commitment to evangelisation. I think that you cannot just talk of a defeat for Christian principles, but of a defeat for humanity,” the prelate said.
Ireland voted 62-38 percent to amend the Constitution and allow same-sex couples to legally marry.
While 18 other countries have already legalized same-sex marriage, Ireland is the first to adopt the law through popular vote.
On Monday, Osservatore Romano’s Italian edition published a piece on the referendum, in which it cited some of the reactions from prelates around the world to the news.
“The majority of comments from the ecclesial world analyze with clarity the outcome of the referendum, recognizing the reality that there is a distance, in certain matters, between society and the Church,” the Vatican newspaper writes.
Young people are considered to have played a major role in passing the referendum, leading Church leaders to reflect on how effectively they have been communicating the faith.
In an interview with RTE after the results of the referendum were released, Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin called for a “reality check” in how the Church has been conveying the faith to the youth.
“Most of these young people who voted yes are products of our Catholic school system for 12 years,” Archbishop Martin said. “I’m saying there’s a big challenge there to see how we get across the message of the Church.”
Around 60 percent of the 3.2 million eligible voters throughout the Republic of Ireland took part in the referendum.
Friday’s referendum comes 22 years after Ireland decriminalized homosexual acts.
In 2010, the country enacted the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act, allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions.
The popular vote to allow same-sex marriage is significant in Ireland on account of the country’s long history of Catholicism, shaken only in recent decades by scandals among the clergy and religious.
“This vote has certainly changed the landscape in which the Church ministers in Ireland, and the outcome offers it new and brave challenges,” said Dublin native Monsignor John Kennedy in a May 25 interview with EWTN News.
Nonetheless, Msgr. Kennedy said the new legislation should not be cause for discouragement, but for a stronger commitment to disseminating the Christian message.
“Instead of perhaps feeling downcast by the decision, or wondering about the role of the Church in the world today, I believe that Catholics must now pause, focus, pray and advance with even greater energy,” he said.