Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, president of the Commission of the Bishops Conference of the European Union, maintains the church's teaching on homosexuality is wrong and should be changed.
The comments by Hollerich, a Jesuit, came during an interview with KNA, a German Catholic news agency.
The Catholic News Service said Hollerich considers the church's assessment of homosexuality as sinful to be incorrect.
"I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching is no longer correct," Hollerich said.
He called for a fundamental revision of church teaching, and noted the way Pope Francis has talked about homosexuality could spark a change in the doctrine.
"There is no homosexuality in the New Testament," Hollerich said. "There is only the mention of homosexual acts, which were partly pagan ritual acts. That was, of course, forbidden. I think it is time for a fundamental revision of the doctrine."
Reuters described Hollerich as a "prominent liberal cardinal."
The news outlet noted homosexuality is one of the most controversial issues in the church. Conservatives have claimed Pope Francis has given mixed signals about where he stands on the issue.
Francis has said that the church cannot accept same-sex marriage, but it can support civil union laws aimed at granting gay partners joint rights in areas of pensions, healthcare and inheritance, according to Reuters.
In the KNA interview, Hollerich said gay church workers should not be forced out of their jobs.
"They know they have a home in the church," he said. "With us [the Luxembourg archdiocese] no one is dismissed because they are homosexual."
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