The Catholic church needs to be 'sensitive' with people who are gay, Primate of All Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin has said.
He was responding to comments from Fr Paddy Byrne, who earlier this week criticised the Vatican's stance on blessing same-sex unions.
Las month, its doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), found that moves to bless homosexual couples, who ask for some type of religious recognition of their union, cannot "be considered licit" - or lawful.
Fr Byrne told The Pat Kenny Show: "If I can go out... to bless a calf that's not well, to bless a person's leg that might be a bit sore, surely to God - and this is a theological thing - but a blessing is a blessing which anybody can do.
"Where there's love, there's grace and surely gay couples at the very best deserve that sort of dignified human response".
While speaking on The Hard Shoulder, Archbishop Martin said the Catholic church should be as inclusive as possible.
"I think that what Fr Paddy's pointing to is something that we indeed all need to learn about: which is being sensitive and pastoral with people who are gay, who discover they are gay and who are perhaps themselves struggling with what that means for their faith.
"I do believe there's a huge amount of work still for us to do in trying to reach out, and ensure that our church can be as inclusive as possible - even though we also have our strong teaching about marriage".
And he said he welcomes the fact that such conversations are being had.
"I think that, first of all, Fr Paddy and many people have been involved in the commentary and the discussion surrounding this.
"And I actually think that it's healthy that we do have this conversation pastorally about how we reach out to gay people, and how we do look after them and include them as much as we can pastorally in the life of their church.
"I think Fr Paddy, though, when was speaking about blessing his cars and pets - that's a very different thing to what this particular response from the Holy See was about.
"This particular question was about whether or not the church has the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex.
"The church doesn't have a difficulty with blessing people, and indeed individuals like myself or yourself - but the particular question they were responding to at this time was about the blessing of the union."
He said the response by the CDF was in accordance with the current teachings of the church around sacramental marriage "which is between a man and woman, and the church's teaching on marriage is well known".
"The blessing of a union that would give the impression that this was the same as marriage wouldn't be in accordance with current church teaching.
"That would also apply, by the way, to the blessing of a union between a man and a woman who have already been married - we can't bless that either in a heterosexual situation."