The Vatican's secretary of state has called Ireland's vote to legalize gay marriage a "defeat for humanity."
More than 60 percent of the predominantly Roman Catholic country's citizens cast ballots in favor of legalizing gay marriage over the weekend.
Speaking on Tuesday evening, Cardinal Pietro Parolin told reporters he was "deeply saddened" by the results of the historical referendum, with the statement marking the first set of remarks on the issue from a senior Vatican official.
"I don't think you can speak only about a defeat for Christian principles, but a defeat for humanity," Parolin said, according to the Associated Press, adding that the Catholic Church must strengthen its commitment to evangelization.
Parolin's comments follow Dublin's archbishop Diarmuid Martin remarks about the vote during an interview on Sunday in which he stressed that the outcome clearly reflected views of young people. He said the church needed to look at whether it had drifted away from the young population.
"The church has a huge task to get its message across to young people. [It] needs to do a reality check," Martin, who voted against the referendum, told Irish news station RTE.
"I appreciate how gay and lesbian men and women feel on this day," he added. "That they feel this is something that is enriching the way they live. I think it is a social revolution."
Ireland's vote on Sunday made it the first country to approve gay marriage by a popular vote. The referendum had an extra layer of significance given the role the Catholic Church has played in the country, with 85 percent of the population self-identifying as Catholic. Homosexuality was illegal in the country until 1993.
Pope Francis has yet to make a public comment on the vote, but on Wednesday he reiterated that Catholic Doctrine defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, the AP reported. He stressed the importance of of couples getting to know one another during the engagement period.
While Francis famously quipped "Who am I to judge?" in response to a journalist's question about gay people, he has also warned of an "ideological colonization" that was aiming to "destroy the family" during a visit to the Philippines — comments many believe were in reference to gay marriage. Francis also put up a tough fight against Argentina's move to legalize same-sex marriage during his tenure as the archbishop of Buenos Aires.
_The Associated Press contributed to this report. _
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