Pope denounces effort to equate marriage with other lifestyles

September 15, 2004

VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II told New Zealand bishops Monday that efforts to equate marriage between man and woman to other forms of cohabitation violated "God's plan for humanity."

The pope did not specifically mention it, but New Zealand's parliament has been debating proposed legislation that would grant "civil union" status to couples – both same-sex and heterosexual – who live together, giving them many of the same rights as married couples.

Conservative critics have labeled it the "Gay Marriage Bill," although it doesn't formally recognize gay marriages and differentiates between civil unions and marriage.

"Spouses rightly deserve specific and categorical legal recognition by the state," the pope said, "while any attempt to equate marriage with other forms of cohabitation violates its unique role in God's plan for humanity."

The pope spoke of the "challenges currently confronting" the bishops, and urged them to "defend the sanctity and uniqueness of marriage."

The bishop's delegation, making a periodic visit to the Vatican, was led by Cardinal Thomas Williams, who several months ago denounced reforming politicians behind the bill as "modern barbarians."

In his speech, John Paul also lamented secular trends in New Zealand, in particular weakening of Sunday Mass attendance.

The pope said Sunday must not be "unduly dominated by entertainment and sport." – Sapa-AP

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