Bishops tell congregations: 'The natural order is marriage between a man and a woman'
Letters from four Irish bishops urging a No vote in the marriage referendum have been read out at masses in a number of Catholic dioceses today.
Each of the letters defends marriage between a man and a woman as the "natural order" and argues that a vote against same-sex marriage is a vote for the common good.
The Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has challenged claims by Yes campaigners that legalising same-sex marriage would not affect church marriages.
Read More: Support for Yes vote in Marriage Equality Referendum plummets with one week to go - poll
Similar messages have gone to churchgoers in the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly and in the dioceses of Galway, Killala, and Elphin.
Dr Martin wrote that a 'Yes' outcome in this Friday's referendum would affect every citizen “because it would fundamentally change the philosophy which underpins cohesion in society.”
Adding, marriage was linked with the family “where mothers and fathers bring different, yet complementary gifts and strengths into a child’s life”.
“Marriage [is] not simply about a wedding ceremony or about two people being in love with each other.”
Read More: Varadkar frozen out of TV marriage debate
Dr Martin encouraged voters to consider very carefully “the profound implications which the constitutional amendment on marriage would have on the family and on our understanding of parenthood.”
In a similar letter, Bishop Kevin Doran, of Elpihn, said: “Every citizen and long-term resident has a vested interest in how society defines and protects marriage and the family founded on marriage”.
He said those who had a right to vote had a responsibility to use it for the common good.
Read More: Forget silent No, meet shy Yes
The Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Kieran O'Reilly said that, while none of the bishops in Ireland want to alienate or denigrate any individual or group, they believe that marriage between a man and a woman is an institution “that is fundamental to both human life and society's well-being.”
Adding: “Marriage as understood by the great religious traditions of the world is that of the union between a man and a woman. This is enshrined I believe in the natural order."
Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan warned that if the amendment passed there would be "serious implications".
"It will become increasingly difficult to speak or teach in public about marriage as being between a man and a woman."
Read More: A Yes victory will not change the supremacy of natural biological law
The pastoral letters were read out in churches on Sunday, less than seven days ahead of the marriage equality referendum on 22 May.
Earlier this year the Catholic bishops of Ireland published a pastoral a statement, "The Meaning of Marriage" when they advised that "to redefine the nature of marriage would be to undermine it as the fundamental building block of our society."