Pope Francis has said any legal union between a same-sex couple is a civil union, not a marriage.
The Catholic leader has reiterated his opposition to marriage equality in a new book.
His comments were published in a series of interviews with Dominique Wolton, the French sociologist.
‘Marriage between people of the same sex? “Marriage” is a historical word,’ Francis said.
‘Always in humanity, and not only within the Church, it’s between a man and a woman…we cannot change that.
‘This is the nature of things. This is how they are. Let’s call them “civil unions”.’
Civil unions were recently allowed in Italy, the last country in Western Europe to pass a form of legal union for same-sex couples.
They are considered a union set out by the government, free from historical connotations.
Francis also reiterated his opposition to transgender people. He has previously compared them to ‘nuclear weapons’.
‘In books also, children are learning that they can choose their own sex.
‘Why is sex, being a woman or a man, a choice and not a fact of nature?
‘This favors this mistake.’
Claiming to ‘say things as they are’, Francis concluded: ‘Marriage is between a man and a woman. This is the precise term. Lets call unions between the same sex “civil unions”.’
While a long way off from calling for equality for LGBTI people, this recognition of legal rights for couples could be considered progressive.
Pope once said ‘who am I to judge?’
The Pope has repeatedly emphasized his opposition to same-sex marriage, despite once saying ‘who am I to judge?’ on homosexuality.
In a recent trip to the Philippines, he said: ‘The family is…. threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage.’
But despite this, the Vatican is appearing to appear more relaxed when it comes to LGBTI rights on the international stage.
The Pope welcomed Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettell and his husband at the Vatican in March. The couple were there alongside European heads of government for the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome.