The Primate of All Ireland, the Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, has admitted there is a challenge ahead for the Church following the yes vote in the referendum.
Speaking on RTÉ radio, he said: “The whole debate has helped us understand the great sense of alienation and isolation that many gay people have felt, perhaps even at the hands of the Church.
“I think that one of the lessons in the Church that we have to learn from this debate is how do we reach out pastorally to people.”
He said many people were quiet about voting no and that he had heard from many people who are saddened by the result.
Speaking from Derry, Archbishop Martin said he thought that Pope Francis’ secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, was trying to express “bereavement” at the result of Ireland’s marriage equality referendum.
Asked on Seán O’Rourke’s Today programme about Cardinal Parolin’s view of the result as a “defeat for humanity”, Archbishop Martin said that many people who had voted against the proposal felt a sense of loss at the result.
“One of the difficulties in the debate was that we had two parallel debates going on,” Archbishop Martin said.
“One was about the meaning of marriage, and the other was about respecting gay people and showing tolerance.”
He said Cardinal Parolin — whose comments last week caused controversy — had been expressing the Church’s deeply held conviction about the meaning of marriage.
Many people in Ireland would have been saddened by the result of the vote, he added.
“I think what he was trying to do he was trying to express the loss that has occurred here — and we do feel it’s a loss, that something very unique and special and very precious has been lost,” said Archbishop Martin.
He said that while there were clearly a lot of people who were very happy at the result, ”I think what the cardinal was trying to do was to express that sense of loss — bereavement even”.
Archbishop Martin also addressed comments made by US cardinal Raymond Burke, who was recently moved from a senior role in the Vatican to be patron of the Order of Malta.
Speaking to Oxford’s Catholic Society, Cardinal Burke said Ireland has gone further than paganism and “defied God” by extending the constitutional protection of marriage to same-sex couples.
According to The Tablet, Cardinal Burke said: “This is a defiance of God. It’s just incredible. Pagans may have tolerated homosexual behaviours, they never dared to say this was marriage.”
In response, Archbishop Martin said yesterday: “I would not use that language and throughout the debate we asked people to try to be respectful.”
His comments yesterday follow a homily the archbishop delivered on Sunday at Knock Shrine during which he said that the referendum debate had helped people become more aware of the “alienation and isolation often experienced by gay people”.