VATICAN CITY - The Irish vote in favour of gay marriage constitutes "a defeat" that highlights a gap between the Church and modern society, the Vatican newspaper said Monday.
While neither the Pope nor the Vatican have reacted officially to Friday's Irish referendum result, the Osservatore Romano daily spoke of "a challenge for the whole Church," and of "the distance, in some areas, between society and the Church."
The result of the Irish vote was clear, with 62 per cent of votes in favour and 38 per cent against gay marriage in a country where being homosexual was a crime until 1993.
"The margin between the 'yes' and the 'no' votes was too large not to be accepted as a defeat. It was the result of high voter turnout, notably among young people," the Vatican paper opined.
The once-dominant Catholic Church in Ireland has also been trying to come to terms with the referendum result, saying it needed a "new language" to connect to people.
"The Church has to find a new language which will be understood and heard by people," Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, a senior Irish cleric, told reporters after mass at the city's St Mary's Pro-Cathedral on Sunday.
"We have to see how is it that the Church's teaching on marriage and family is not being received even within its own flock," he added.
Cardinal Georges Cottier, a noted Church theologian, was cited by the Osservatore Romano as saying it was impossible to understand the referendum result "without taking into account the paedophilia scandal which has rocked the Irish Church."
The majority of Irish people still identify themselves as Catholic, but the Church's influence has waned in recent years amid growing secularisation and after a wave of clerical child sex abuse scandals.
During the campaign, bishops spoke against changing the law, while older and rural voters were thought to have accounted for much of the "No" vote.
Pope Francis has called on Roman Catholics "not to judge" homosexuals who seek God, but he has also referred to church teachings which decry homosexuality.