- (Photo: Reuters/ )
The Pope has spoken out against gay marriage this week affirming the need for society to "acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman."
Pope Benedict XVI helped officially open the Christmas season at the Vatican on Friday with the traditional lighting of a Christmas tree in Vatican City's St Peter's Square. On the same day the Holy See released an official statement made annually by the pope for the World Day of Peace 2013.
The statement from the Catholic Church leader said:
"There is…a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union.
"Such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society. These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity."
The statement comes just a month after the Vatican spoke out against any suggestions that traditional marriage had been defeated, following significant victories for gay marriage activists in the United States and Europe.
"One might say the church, at least on this front, has been defeated," said the leading Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano in November. "But that's not the case."
During November's elections in the United States four U.S. states officially approved amending the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples - the first time that has happened by voter referendum in the history of the United States.
While the majority of U.S. states still uphold traditional marriage as between one man and one woman, gay marriage is now legal in 11 states.
Also at the beginning of November, France made it clear that it would legalize same-sex marriage by early next year, while Spain, another country boasting a large number of Catholics, upheld its gay marriage laws.
Despite these developments, the Roman Catholic Church, which has been at the forefront of advocating for traditional marriage, has said that it is not giving up the fight, and insisted that traditional marriage is a "privilege" of civilized society.
"It is clear that, in Western countries, there is a widespread tendency to modify the classic vision of marriage between a man and woman, or rather to try to give it up, erasing its specific and privileged legal recognition compared to other forms of union," said Father Federico Lombardi on the Vatican Radio last month.
The Vatican spokesman continued: "In short, preserving a vision of the human person and of human relationships where there is a public acknowledgment of monogamous marriage between a man and woman is an achievement of civilization. If not, why not contemplate also freely chosen polygamy and, of course, not to discriminate, polyandry? It is not expected, then, the Church will give up proposing that society recognize a specific place for marriage between a man and a woman."
Polyandry, the practice of a man or a woman marrying multiple partners, has surfaced in the past in some societies but is currently illegal in Europe and the United States.
The Mormon Church in the U.S. did allow polygamy for a time, but the practice was discounted in 1890.
The relationship between the Vatican and the White House has somewhat soured in the past year, notably with President Barack Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage back in May, and the introduction of the HHS Mandate supported by his administration that some Roman Catholics say infringes on their religious freedom.
After Obama's re-election on Nov. 6, Pope Benedict XVI sent him a congratulatory letter, but used the occasion to remind the president of the big differences between his administration and the Vatican.
"In the message, the Holy Father sent his best wishes to the president for his new term and assured him of his prayers that God might assist him in his very great responsibility before the country and the international community," the Vatican said in a statement.
The Vatican also insisted that the issues related to the HHS Mandate, which forces religious employers to provide contraceptive insurance to employees, cannot be swept under the rug.
(The Christian Post writer Stoyan Zaimov also contributed to this article)