The bishops said they hoped for a 'renewed appreciation of the fundamental importance of sexual difference'

The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has said it is “deeply concerned” about the rise of an ideology which holds that gender is fluid.

In a statement released following a four-day plenary assembly in Leeds, the bishops’ conference said: “The idea that the individual is free to define himself or herself dominates discourse about gender. Yet our human instinct is otherwise.”

The statement quoted Pope Francis, who warned against the “ideology of gender” in his exhortation Amoris Laetitia, saying that it “denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual difference, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family”.

“We are deeply concerned that this ideology of gender is creating confusion,” the bishops said. “As we continue to reflect on these issues, we hope for a renewed appreciation of the fundamental importance of sexual difference in our culture and the accompaniment of those who experience conflict in their sense of self and God-given identity. We all have a duty to protect the most vulnerable.”

The bishops also said there was a “place of welcome for everyone in the Catholic Church” and that they were committed to the care of people who did not accept their biological sex.

“Through listening to them we seek to understand their experience more deeply and want to accompany them with compassion, emphasising that they are loved by God and valued in their inherent God-given dignity,” their statement said.