One of Pope Francis's closest advisers has warned that "a strict separation of Church and State will never work" and has appealed for greater co-operation between the two going forward.
Speaking to journalists in Limerick ahead of addressing the conference, 'Let's Talk Family: Let's Be Family', Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna said he could not comment on Archbishop Diarmuid Martin's concerns over possible growing hostility between the Church and State.
The Cardinal, who is one of Pope Francis's special advisory Council of Nine, said that in Austria, Church-State relations had benefited from dialogue.
"After the drama of National Socialism and World War II" Austria sought to foster a "free Church in a free State" where the State was free and the Church was free, he explained.
"The model of strict separation has never worked and the model of confusing state, religion and politics has always been very problematic," he said.
"We do not want confusion between politics and religion."
The 72-year-old prelate was in Ireland for a conference at Mary Immaculate College, which is the first event in the build-up to the World Meeting of Families in August next year, which Pope Francis is widely expected to attend.
On the issue of the family, Cardinal Schönborn, who is considered a possible successor to Pope Francis, said the Church's intention was to "do whatever we can to favour, strengthen and encourage the family without discrediting other forms of life".
Family, he said, "is and remains and will remain forever the basis of every society. Therefore, favouring the family is favouring the future".
Asked about Ireland's marriage referendum and acceptance of same-sex relationships, he quoted Francis's words to a journalist: "Who am I to judge?"
"We never can judge a person. We may not agree with the behaviour but we are not entitled to judge a person."