English cardinal praying for No vote

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor

One of England's most prominent Catholics is praying Ireland will vote no in the gay marriage referendum.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor - the former Archbishop of Westminster - insists marriage should mean a union between men and women and believes that allowing same-sex couples the same right is wrong.

Speaking at the Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye, south Wales, the 82-year-old cleric said of the Irish referendum: "I hope they vote no. I do think that marriage is marriage and I'm not talking about civil union.

"Marriage has always been part of a language between man and woman and family and children and community.

"Gay couples may also say (it is the same) but I don't think it is.

"The heart of the structure in our country is the family. The more family breaks down in different ways, the less we have of a healthy community.

"The greatest evil, in my view, is the breakdown of family life in our country.

"As I said to Tony Blair, anything you do to enhance family life I will support it - anything that diminishes it I won't."

During an hour long talk, the retired Cardinal also told his audience that women should not be allowed to take on the top roles within the Catholic church.

"The change in the Catholic church since I was a boy has been extraordinary, now in every parish there will be women ministers who read in the church and administer holy communion and do all sorts of things," he added.

"People say there ought to be more women in Rome - and I agree.

"But (the question of women priests) is much more theological. Ever since the time of the Lord priests have always been men.

"Two popes have said very clear that they haven't the authority to change what has been a constant tradition of the church."