TAOISEACH Enda Kenny dismissed the Pope's criticism of Ireland's proposed abortion laws, saying the Government was not bringing in abortion on demand.
Intervening in the abortion debate, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his "dismay" at proposals to bring in legislation "in various countries, even those of Christian tradition".
Mr Kenny said the Pope was perfectly entitled to make his comments but insisted the Government was not introducing legislation allowing abortion on demand.
"What we need is understanding, respect and dignity about the hearings that are now going to take place.
"What the Government is about here is setting in place a framework and a process so that legal certainty will apply to medical personnel who have to make decisions where the life of a mother is threatened, and also to introduce regulations that restrict a move towards abortion on demand, particularly in the case where suicide is involved," he said.
"We're not in a position to be able to tell medical personnel what it is that they should do but it is our duty to set in place a framework which gives legal certainty to situations that arise where they have to intervene to save the life of the mother," he added.
Meanwhile, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said he disagreed with the Pope's comments as women were entitled to legal clarity and "more than understanding and mercy".
But Mr Gilmore and European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton disagreed in their interpretations of the Pope's speech.
The Tanaiste said women were entitled to legal clarity, while the European Affairs Minister said she was not clear the Pope was suggesting they weren't.
Mr Gilmore and Ms Creighton agreed the Pope was simply expressing the Catholic Church's well-known view on abortion.
Mr Gilmore said he received a report on the Pope's speech from his department's secretary general David Cooney, who attended the address.
Following the controversy over the closure of the Embassy to the Vatican, Mr Cooney became Ireland's Ambassador to the Holy See.
Mr Gilmore said the Pope was expressing the "long established and well-known view" of his church.
"With respect, I disagree with it. I think that women in Ireland are entitled to more than understanding and mercy, as he put it. I think they are entitled to legal clarity about their situation where their life is at risk.
"And the Government has already made a decision to pursue the option, which was set out in the expert group report, which is to legislate and to introduce appropriate regulations. That process has started. The process of preparing that legislation has started with the hearings, which are taking place in the Oireachtas this week and different points of view will obviously be heard."
Although her views on abortion diverge from the Tanaiste, Ms Creighton did not publicly disagree with the Tanaiste – apart from her interpretation of the comments.
"I certainly don't disagree with the right of the Pope to express his opinion. As the Tanaiste said, he was articulating what is a very well-established and well-known view of the Catholic Church," she said.
"I am not clear that the Pope was suggesting for any second that women are not entitled to legal clarity."