Archbishop John Dew of Wellington, president of the Bishops' Conference of New Zealand, has expressed profound sadness over the authorization of 'gay marriage' by the country's Parliament on April 17.

"We find it bizarre that what has been discarded is an understanding of marriage that has its origin in human nature and is common to every culture," said Archbishop John Dew, according to CathNews.

He also voiced concern that "almost all references to husband and wife will be removed from legislation referencing marriage."

"We know many New Zealanders stand with us in this," he said.

By a vote of 77-44, New Zealand became the first country in the Pacific region and the thirteenth country in the world to grant legal recognition to same-sex "marriage."

The law was sponsored by Labor representative Louisa Wall, who said it was necessary to secure "equal rights."

Representative Maurice Williamson, who supported the measure, dismissed Catholic criticism as "coming from someone who's taken an oath of celibacy for his whole life."

However, Archbishop Dew stressed that marriage "is founded on sexual difference" and "reflects this unique reality."

"Marriage is the essential human institution that predates religion and state," he said. "It is a committed union between a man and a woman which has a natural orientation towards the procreation of new human life."

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"We've been assured that our religious freedom to teach and practice marriage according to our religious beliefs is protected, and we will continue to ensure that this freedom is upheld," he added.