Roman Catholic and Orthodox bishops have issued a statement about the importance of marriage – for heterosexuals.

The First European Catholic-Orthodox Forum, which was held over four days in Trent, Italy, issued a joint statement affirming the importance of the family and expressing disdain for gay people.

“The most suitable environment for the harmonious development of the child is the family, composed of a father, mother and siblings,” the statement said.

The goal of the Forum was to “help define common positions on social and moral questions. By engaging in this exchange, we help each other realise just how close our moral and social doctrines are. At the same time we make the world aware of our concerns.”

Setting out the position of the Roman Catholic Church, the bishops said:

“Sexuality is recognised as a dimension of the image of God in human beings and so has a personal value.

“Men and women must learn in the language of the body their vocation to responsible love as a true gift of themselves.

“Other sexual expressions such as fornication, homosexual acts and sexual unions outside marriage are contrary to this vocation to love.”

The Orthodox view is that “on the basis of Holy Scripture and Tradition the Orthodox Church denounces homosexual relations, seeing in them the distortion of man’s divinely-created nature.

“It also rejects all forms of fornication, adultery and marital infidelity, as well as prostitution and promiscuity.

“At the same time, it recognises the need to pastorally assist those people who have disordered inclinations and whose way of life does not correspond to the Gospel’s moral teaching.”

Roman Catholic and Orthodox leaders across Europe have attacked gay rights and in particular gay marriage, which is legal in Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium and will be legalised in Norway next year.

“Today we are faced with a certain ideology of culture that emerged with the sexual revolution in the last century,” the bishops said.

“It is our belief that promoting family institution, based on the marriage of man and woman, Europe will be furthering this fundamental unit of society that carries out a vital liberating, fulfilling and enlightening role in society.

“To recognise this is the beginning of a renewal of our European culture that is seeking its way forward at this time of profound soul-searching.

“Our appeal to political and social leaders is the following: The family is not an outdated notion! Rightly rediscovered, it is the future. Without the mutual love of the family our society dies.

“We acknowledge the positive international documents that support the family.

“For instance, article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that: “Man and woman of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family” and “the family is the natural and fundamental group of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”

“In the past the family and childbirth were regarded as something sacred. In recent years, however,
these notions are questioned.

“There is an attempt to change language and introduce ambiguity into international documents under the ideological introduction of the gender theory.”

The Roman Catholic Church is opposing a United Nations statement on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people because they claim it will legitimise gay marriage.

The statement is supported by all 27 EU menber states and most other European nations.

The Director of the Vatican Press Office claimed last week that the Roman Catholic Church supports the human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people.

Vatican Radio reported that Fr Lombardi said: “no-one can or wants to defend the death penalty for homosexuals, as some people aim to insinuate.

“The well-known principals of respect for the fundamental rights of the person and the refusal of all forms of unjust discrimination – which are also clearly enshrined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church – not only exclude the death penalty, but all forms of penal legislation that are violent or discriminatory towards homosexual persons.

“Archbishop Migliore’s (Vatican’s observer at the UN) concerns were regarding another issue, not the decriminalisation of homosexuality per se, but the introduction of a declaration of political value, which could result in control mechanisms according to which, norms that do not place each sexual orientation on the same level, would be considered contrary to respect for human rights.”

The declaration makes no mention of gay marriage or civil partnerships.

“We urge States to take all the necessary measures, in particular legislative or administrative, to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention,” it states.

“We urge States to ensure that human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity are investigated and perpetrators held accountable and brought to justice.

“We urge States to ensure adequate protection of human rights defenders, and remove obstacles which prevent them from carrying out their work on issues of human rights and sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The statement will be read out during this week’s meeting of the UN General Assembly.