In an address to visiting bishops from the United States, the pope has denounced gay marriage and its proponents. His words come a week after Maryland became the latest US state to allow same-sex unions.
Speaking from the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI condemned gay marriage on Friday. The speech was directed at a visiting group of bishops from the United States, where Maryland recently became the latest state to legalize the institution of same-sex marriage.
"Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage," the pope said.
He also included a warning against the gay marriage lobby, which he described as "the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage."
"Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature," the pope said. "The contemporary crisis of marriage and the family ... has led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost."
Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont all currently allow gay and lesbian weddings.
Several European countries, including Spain and the Netherlands, have legalized gay marriage.
The Catholic Church's concerns about the progress being made in the realm of gay rights will be at the forefront of the planned World Meeting of Families 2012 in Italy in June.
sjt/ncy (AFP, Reuters)