Andy Burnham urges Pope Francis to back same-sex marriage and bring the Catholic Church 'into the 21st century'

The Labour leadership hopeful says the Church 'has some serious soul searching to do' after the results of the Irish referendum on gay marriage

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The Independent Online

Andy Burnham has called on Pope Francis to pull the Catholic Church into the 21st century and back gay rights as a senior official in the Vatican slammed Ireland’s vote to legalise same-sex marriage as “a defeat for humanity”.

The Labour leadership hopeful used his column in The Daily Mirror to urge the Pontiff to promote a progressive stance on gay rights after the historic referendum on Friday.

Francis has been hailed as a more moderate leader and appeared to mark a shift in the attitudes of the Catholic Church in 2013 when he told reporters: "If someone is gay and is looking for the Lord, who am I to judge him?"

He has not yet commented directly on the results but Vatican official Cardinal Pietro Parolin said he was “deeply saddened” by the vote in remarks reported on Tuesday. 

Burnham, who was raised as a Catholic, said he now wants to see the Church promote and defend “the innate equality in law of every human being”.

“Our new Pope has brought back a forgiving and warm-hearted style that seemed to characterise the Catholic Church in my youth,” he wrote. “He is the right man to seize this moment and, taking his cue from his flock in Ireland, bring the Church into the 21st century.”

Burnham said the Catholic Church has been left with “some serious soul searching to do” after a country with a population that overwhelmingly identifies as Roman Catholic voted for marriage equality.

His remarks followed those made by Diarmuid Martin, one of Ireland’s most senior Catholic clerics, who warned the Church needed a “reality check” after the vote.