The Chief Rabbi of Rome has weighed into the controversy surrounding gay rights.

Riccardo Di Segni has said people of the Jewish faith must oppose moves to grant limited recognition to same-sex and unmarried couples.

The main Islamic group in Italy has also backed the stance of the Roman Catholic church, saying that Muslims are free to attend the church-organised “Family Day” rally in Rome on Saturday.

The Union of Islamic Communities in Italy spokesman (UCOII) said that it did not feel the proposed new legislation was a priority for Italy, but that Muslims believe marriage is between a man and a woman.

The Chief Rabbi was critical of Jewish silence over the gay rights issue.

“Society is about to make a decision which, according to our traditions, abundantly exceeds permitted limits,” the rabbi writes in this month’s Shalom magazine.

“It is our duty to oppose these decisions and not remain indifferent.”

UCOII’s spokesman, Ezzedin el-Zerfi, told Adnkronos International (AKI) that they had “not taken an official position on the ‘Family Day’ rally in Rome but we believe that each Muslim is free to participate.”

May 12th will be “Family Day,” featuring a demonstration in Rome. Millions of leaflets have been handed out at churches across Italy encouraging people to attend.

The planned civil unions will be both for heterosexual and homosexual couples, a proposal that has outraged the Catholic Church.

The Family Day manifesto does not specifically mention the laws, but focuses on calls for legislation promoting more traditional families.

“Only in the family founded on the stable union of a man and a woman and opened to a natural, orderly procreation, the offspring are born and raised in a community of love and life from which they can expect a civil, moral and religious education,” reads the event manifesto.

Coincidentally, the rally will be held on the 33rd anniversary of a referendum in which Italians voted for divorce to be legalised. The rally will take place in Rome’s central San Giovanni Square.

Two Catholic members of the government will be taking part in the rally, justice minister Clemente Mastella and public education minister Giuseppe Fioroni, along with members of the conservative opposition.

The controversial proposed law has divided the already fractious nine-party coalition government, which encompasses a range of political views, from Communists to Catholic centrists.

Pope Benedict XVI and the Italian Bishop’s Conference (CEI) have repeatedly dismissed civil unions. They have told Catholic lawmakers that if they vote on the bill, they will be denied the right to take communion.

Despite what has previously been said, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco has asserted that the members of the CEI will not be demonstrating on Saturday.

However, the group does strongly endorse the event.

Bagnasco told AKI: “This is an initiative born from the heart of the people and of organisations not belonging to the Church which naturally has the support and approval of the bishops and pastors.”

Five gay groups have also announced a demonstration on May 12, called “We are a family too.”

They will be marching for more social services for children and the elderly.