A Catholic priest in Cheltenham has apologised after members of his flock accused him of making a homophobic comment.
The Rev Frank Wainwright insists his reference to “Adam and Steve” while discussing marriage was not meant to be offensive to the town’s gay community.
The deacon made the comments at St Gregory’s Catholic Church, in St James Square.
He said: “Marriage is between a man and a woman in a lifelong relationship, which in most cases is only ended by death, as it was in the beginning with Adam and Eve, and so it remains – not Adam and Steve.”
After it emerged some people were upset at the remark, made during a Sunday mass, Mr Wainwright moved swiftly to apologise.
He said he regretted using the phrase and has insisted he is not homophobic.
“I want to apologise for the wording of what I said,” he said. “It was very badly said and it shouldn’t have been said – I totally accept that.
“More than 1,000 people come here to mass and there were five complaints. I’m absolutely not homophobic.
“I expressed Church teaching in a very bad way and I’m sorry for that.”
The comments sparked several complaints to the Echo and community leaders in the town.
A spokesman for the Gloucestershire Gay and Lesbian Community group said the words were poorly chosen, but accepted Mr Wainwright’s apology.
He said: “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.”
Mr Wainwright said he was required to teach the views of the Catholic Church, but swore he would never deliberately attempt to spread prejudice.
He added: “What I am saying is that the Church has a particular viewpoint on it and it is our duty to teach what the church says.
“But it is also true that those people who find it impossible to follow those teachings are still loved and welcomed into our community.
“To say anything which promotes prejudice and discrimination is totally wrong.”