A senior Vatican official, reportedly seen as second only to the pope, said Ireland's recent legalization of gay marriage is a "defeat for humanity" in comments seen as the strongest yet from the Catholic Church on the controversial referendum.
"I was deeply saddened by the result," Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's secretary of state, said at a conference in Rome on Tuesday night, according to The Guardian. "The church must take account of this reality, but in the sense that it must strengthen its commitment to evangelization. I think that you cannot just talk of a defeat for Christian principles, but of a defeat for humanity."
Ireland became the first country to legalize gay marriage by popular vote after 62 percent of voters supported a referendum to change their constitution to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.
An earlier reaction from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, appeared a bit more measured as if the church was ready to soften its position on gay marriage but Parolin's comments made it clear that this was not the case.
"It is very clear that if this referendum is an affirmation of the views of young people … [then the church needs] a reality check," Martin had reportedly said.
An ongoing controversy involving French diplomat and practicing Catholic Laurent Stefanini, who is gay, appears also to be in line with the Catholic Church's official position on homosexuality.
On Tuesday night, Parolin said talks between the Vatican and France were continuing in regard to Stefanini's nomination, and noted that he hopes it's concluded in a "positive manner."
According to The Guardian, Parolin's remarks on the Irish vote are significant because of the broad role he plays in crafting the church's message on major diplomatic and social issues.
Veteran Vatican reporter John Allen wrote in the National Catholic Reporter that Parolin had been "on the frontlines of shaping the Vatican's response to virtually every geopolitical challenge of the past two decades" at the time of the diplomat's appointment in 2013.