Archbishop Eamon Martin issues statement over gay marriage referendum
The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Eamon Martin, has said that to interfere with the definition of marriage is not a simple or trivial matter.
Archbishop Martin was addressing the subject of the same-sex marriage referendum in the Republic of Ireland.
It is taking place on 22 May.
Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, has said that the right to equal marriage applies to civil marriage and not to church or faith-based unions.
Archbishop Martin said the proposed amendment to the Irish constitution would remove "the unique and privileged status in society for the marriage between a man and a woman".
"Until now, Ireland has accepted that it is in the best interests of children and of society to promote and protect the model of children being born and raised in a family with their biological parents," he said.
He added that Irish bishops had already said they "cannot support an amendment to the constitution which redefines marriage and effectively places the union of two men, or two women, on a par with the marriage relationship between a husband and wife which is open to the procreation of children".
Earlier this week, Mr Kenny said heterosexual marriage would not be diminished by same-sex marriage and that the institution of marriage would be enriched by it.
He said the State respected religious freedom and did not seek to encroach on any church or faith.