Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the president of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales, has said the Church will continue to be “obstinate” about gay marriage and other questions of sexual morality.

Answering questions after a talk at St Ethelburga’s Centre in London, Cardinal Nichols was asked about the Church’s response to homophobia. The cardinal said that society had become more empathetic and compassionate towards gay people, and that he “rejoiced” in the change.

But he said that Catholics “still stand for” a definition of marriage as “between a man and a woman” which is open to new life.

Cardinal Nichols went on: “There has never been a time when Christian sexual morality has been totally accepted in any society.” But, he said, Christians would “persist” in being “awkward” on such matters.

The cardinal was also asked about the future of the Church.

He said: “To me, it’s important that the impetus and sense of direction of Pope Francis is continued.” In particular, the cardinal said, he welcomed the Pope’s emphasis on Catholics being “missionary disciples”.

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