Pope Benedict has sparked controversy by again confirming his opposition to same-sex marriage in a speech just ahead of the Italian elections – set to take place in less than ten days.
The pope – known to be more conservative than his predecessor – told members of Italian president Silvio Berlusconi’s European People’s Party (EPP) that the Catholic Church’s position in opposing gay marriage and abortion was “non-negotiable”.
According to the pontiff, the Church has a duty to defend “the recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage”.
He added that it would continue to reject “attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilisation”.
The speech – broadcast on television so soon before the elections – has led to accusations by opposition politicians that the church is attempting to interfere in politics. Some have seen it as an endorsement of the EPP, which has so far refused to legalise same-sex unions.
The leftist Prodi coalition – which has promised to legalise same-sex civil unions if elected – is currently leading in public opinion polls.