The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin has sympathised with the family of Savita Halappanavar and described her death as a ‘terrible disaster’.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin spoke for the first time after Savita died after doctors at a Galway hospital refused to terminate her pregnancy and save her life.

The leading cleric told mass goers: “Here’s a family that six weeks ago was going into what should have been one of the happiest moments of their life - the birth of a new child.

“Now the whole thing has collapsed into a terrible disaster . You just don’t know how the father is standing up to such a terrible disaster.”

The Irish Times has reported that the Archbishop told parishoners that he was however taken aback by some of the reaction to the news of Savita’s death.

Speaking after tens of thousands attended vigils in Savita’s honor over the weekend, he refuted claims that Ireland is not a ‘safe place’ to be pregnant.

The Archbishop added: “I was a little distressed at some of the reaction: somebody saying, for example, Ireland isn’t a safe place to be pregnant.

“The facts show us we have in fact one of the lowest levels of maternal mortality in the world, which means that whatever practices we have are producing the results that we should respect and respect the commitment of our doctors, nurses, midwives and others who put them into practice every day with very positive results. ”

He also told his flock that he remains proud of nationality in spite of international criticism.

“In the face of all the international attention the controversy has caused, I am not ashamed to be Irish at this time,” he stressed.

“When I look at the standards of maternal care that exist in this country and I would hope that we will be able to maintain that”.

“Most doctors would go through their entire career without ever losing a patient coming to them in childbirth. In developing countries the sad thing is that this does occur and even in some developed countries.”

Asked by the paper about the silence of church figures, including himself, since news of the Savitatragedy emerged, he said they did not know what had happened in the case.

He said: “I don’t know the details of what happened.

“Catholic teaching in medical ethics is to save lives and the practice in the country shows that in so many conflictual situations the end product is saving lives.

“That may also be due, to an extent, to the pro-life ethos of all our doctors and nurses, Catholic, non-Catholic or non-believers. They have been scrupulous in ensuring the highest quality of care.”

Asked about the need for political involvement in the case, he said: “I don’t know. All I’ll say is that overall the level of maternal mortality is extremely low by international standards, which means that something is working.

“Where there have been conflicts they have been resolved - and they have been resolved, it would seem to me, in a successful way.”