Sep. 5, 2004. 11:12 AM
Gay marriage 'false,' Pope tells our envoy
Pontiff meets new Canadian ambassador Opposes Ottawa's plan to change legislation

VATICAN CITY Pope John Paul II kept up his campaign against gay marriage yesterday, telling the ambassador from Canada where three provinces allow same-sex couples to wed that such unions create a "false understanding" of marriage.

In past months, the Pope has urged authorities to stop approving gay marriages, saying that they degrade the true sense of marriage.

The pontiff spoke yesterday to the new Canadian Ambassador to the Holy See, Donald Smith.

"The institution of marriage necessarily entails the complementarity of husbands and wives who participate in God's creative activity through the raising of children," he said, according to the text of the speech released by the Vatican.

"Spouses thereby ensure the survival of society and culture, and rightly deserve specific and categorical legal recognition by the State.

Any attempts to change the meaning of the word `spouse' contradict right reason: legal guarantees, analogous to those granted to marriage, cannot be applied to unions between persons of the same sex without creating a false understanding of the nature of marriage.''

Three provinces Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia allow same-sex marriage.

The Liberal Party has promised legislation legalizing gay marriage, possibly next year after the Supreme Court of Canada gives a nonbinding opinion on a tentative bill.

The court will consider whether a proposed federal law to extend civil marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples is constitutional and whether it protects the right of religious groups to refuse to conduct marriage ceremonies in accordance with religious beliefs.

Smith is a former ambassador to Croatia. In 2000, he was named Special Coordinator for Reconstruction of the Balkans and in 2003 he became director, Southeast Europe Division.

Speaking to another newly appointed ambassador to the Holy See, Philip McDonagh of Ireland, the Pope called on the European Union to keep a policy of openness and acceptance of immigrants.

Ireland held the EU rotating presidency until the end of June.

"The plight of refugees and those displaced by poverty, war or persecution is particularly dramatic and calls for special consideration and generosity," John Paul said.

"The Holy See hopes that the steps taken during the Irish presidency of the European Union in favour of policies of openness to other peoples will continue to inspire the community's attitude to immigrants from other continents and cultures.''

Associated Press