The Vatican has described the recent referendum legalising gay marriage in Ireland as not only a defeat for Christian principles, but a defeat for humanity.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican City Secretary of State, who is the Vatican’s second-in-command after Pope Francis, said this on Wednesday at an awards ceremony.

Ireland, a traditionally Catholic country where homosexual acts were illegal until 1993, conducted a public vote on Friday on gay marriage in which the “yes’’ camp won by 62.1 per cent to 37.9 per cent.

The results emboldened gay rights calls elsewhere in Europe.

Parolin said “these results make me very sad.

“As the archbishop of Dublin has said, the Church must take into consideration this reality, but in the sense that in my opinion it must redouble its commitment and make an effort to evangelise it.’’

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the Head of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, said the Church was not opposed to recognising gay people’s “individual rights.’’

He insisted that the unions could not be given rights similar to those enjoyed by married couples.

He added that “leaving terminology aside, it de facto equalises the legal status of homosexual unions to families based on the union between a man and a woman.’’

Bagnasco said the Catholic Church had always seen homosexuality as a sin, and there was no suggestion that its stance may change.

He added that when Pope Francis was still Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he opposed gay marriage laws which Argentina introduced in 2010.

Bagnasco said “it is a real and serious anthropological step back.’’

Meanwhile, Evelyne Paradis, the Executive Director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) in Europe had said that it was unfortunate that some representatives of the Catholic Church failed to acknowledge that equality for LGBTI people did not go against Christian values at all.

She said that throughout the Irish campaign, several practicing Catholics supported marriage equality, saying that being a Christian was about loving all equally.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis had not made any direct comments on the Irish referendum.

On Wednesday, he reiterated the importance of marriage for the Catholic Church, addressing engaged couples in his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square.

He said “the alliance of love between a man and a woman is an alliance for life.

“It cannot be improvised, it is not something you do from one day to the next.’’

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