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Canada will allow same-sex couples to marry if the nation's high court rules it legal, despite a call from the Vatican to oppose it, a Canadian official said Tuesday. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Kimberly Phillips told Agence France-Presse that the issue came up when Canada's new ambassador to the Vatican, Donald Smith, presented his credentials. Legalizing same-sex marriage creates "a false understanding of the nature of marriage," Pope John Paul II told Smith. The pope has repeatedly expressed his opposition to gay marriage. While Canada understands the pope's position, "the government of Canada recognizes that this important issue will elicit strong views from all sides. In such a debate, it is important that the discussion is respectful of such difference of opinion," Phillips said. Canada's high court has yet to rule on the issue of same-sex marriage, but the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia have already legalized it.