Pope Francis has given his blessing to a referendum that would ban marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples in Slovakia, BuzzFeed News reports.
"I greet the pilgrims from Slovakia and, through them, I wish to express my appreciation to the entire Slovak church, encouraging everyone to continue their efforts in defense of the family, the vital cell of society," Francis declared during Wednesday’s general audience
Slovakia, which votes Saturday on a referendum on marriage and a ban on adoption by same-sex couples, is the latest battleground over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual family rights in Europe, BuzzFeed reports.
The country's parliament added language denying marriage recognition to same-sex couples to the country’s constitution in June, BuzzFeed notes; on Saturday, voters will be asked if marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman, if adoption for same-sex couples should be banned, and if parents should be allowed to withdraw their children from sexual education classes.
The Vatican has not changed its long-standing opposition
to family rights for same-sex couples, but the pope's remarks come as the Slovakian church has been under criticism from the country’s gay rights supporters, BuzzFeed reports.
"For the first time in Slovak modern history the Catholic Church is heavily involved in political campaign," declared Martin Macko, executive director of the LGBT rights group Inokost, BuzzFeed reports.
The Conference of Slovak Bishops supports the referendum, but pushes back against suggestions it's the creation of the church.
"The referendum itself is an initiative of civil society; it’s not primarily of the church," conference spokesman, Father Martin Kramara, tells BuzzFeed.
He also denied the church's part in billboards featuring Francis giving a smiling thumbs-up over the caption, "Slovakia’s courageous fight for the protection of the family. Recommendation: 3x yes."
"The Holy Father, for the record, did say words of encouragement for the Slovak church in her fight for the defense of family … but that doesn’t give anybody the right to use his photo in the campaign," Kramara told Buzz Feed.
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