A Catholic priest has apologised after joking that marriage is not for “Adam and Steve” in a sermon.

Reverend Frank Wainwright, 48, a deacon at St Gregory’s Church in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, made the quip at a Sunday service when discussing commitment.

Five of his 200-strong congregation complained and and a local gay group criticised his choice of words.

Rev Wainwright said during the sermon: “Sometimes within the church we have to hold our heads above the parapet and say what we believe as Catholics and sometimes in saying that we will be marginalised and put down.

”For example, in adoption a child has a right to want a mother and father.

”That marriage is between a man and a woman and it’s a life-long commitment and usually only ended by death, as it was in the beginning and ever shall be.

”Marriage is between Adam and Eve – not Adam and Steve.”

Following the complaints, he told the Gloucester Echo: “I can see why people are upset by the comment because it was flippant. I totally accept that I have caused offence and I am apologising for that.”

He added: “The comment is obviously not homophobic and it was just intended as a joke. My duty is to preach what the church preaches that marriage is between a man and a woman.

”I have plenty of gay friends and I have no problem at all with them but as a Catholic minister I must preach that marriage is between a man and woman and nothing else.”

A spokesman from the Gloucestershire Gay and Lesbian Community group said Rev Wainwright’s apology had been accepted.

He told the newspaper: “I can understand why he has said it as there are canonic references. However, we are living in a different world and one would hope that anyone who is in a loving relationship would be accepted.

“In this country, it is legal for people of the same sex to enter into a civil partnership and that is not necessarily a religious relationship.

“But we appreciate he has apologised for the remark and we would not want to stir anything up.”