The eighth amendment to the Constitution has been described as "something precious and wonderful'' by the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin.
“It is a very clear statement at the foundation and sub-structure of our laws that everyone has an equal right to life… the mother, an elderly person who is terminally ill, and the unborn child,’’ he said.
In an interview on the RTÉ Radio programme This Week, Dr Martin said it was "gravely wrong'' to believe that the life of any human being could be taken at any stage.
He said the decision to have a referendum was not a matter for the Catholic Church.
“We would wonder if this is really the big issue that people on the doorsteps want to talk about,’’ he added.
“There are many issues in this country at the moment about tax, about water charges, about jobs, and we are aware, of course, there are sections of society who are calling for a referendum.”
Asked if it was possible to be a Catholic and support abortion in certain circumstances, Dr Martin replied: “I think if you are a Catholic who wishes to be informed by the teaching of your Church, you will not find in the teaching of the Church a statement that says you can support the deliberate and intentional taking of human life at any stage.’’
Dr Martin said the Church would call on politicians not to leave their Catholic faith outside of the door when it came to issues of public policy.
He said the Church had not been asked to fund any particular group in the campaign to repeal the amendment, although it knew there were many people working in the area of pro-life who felt they were powerless, particularly when they said there were huge amounts of money coming into other groups advocating a repeal of the eight amendment.
A citizens’ assembly, which will first consider a possible referendum on the Eighth Amendment, meets in Dublin Castle on October 15th.
It will look at the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution which, as article 40.3.3, underpins Ireland’s strict abortion laws. It will be chaired by Supreme Court judge Mary Laffoy.
Government sources do not expect it to return with its recommendations until towards the end of the first half of 2017.