The Pope has defended the traditional definition of marriage, saying it must be “promoted and defended” from changes such as allowing gay couples to marry.

Pope Benedict XVI made the comments yesterday in France where he met with 32 of the country’s bishops. The country’s recently elected president Francois Hollande has promised to make same-sex marriage legal.

“Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself,” the Pontiff said.

He said the family, which is the foundation of society, “is threatened in many places by a faulty conception of human nature.

“Defending life and the family in society isn’t retrograde, rather it’s prophetic,” adding that the Church needed to “promote those values that permit the full development of the human person.”

In January, the Pope warned that introducing same-sex marriage would risk the future of humanity itself.

“Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.”

He continued: “The family unit is fundamental for the educational process and for the development both of individuals and states; hence there is a need for policies which promote the family and aid social cohesion and dialogue.”

In an end-of year address in 2008, he said that the existence of gay people threatens humanity as much as the destruction of the rainforests does and that “blurring” genders through acceptance of transgender people would kill off the human race.

In 2010, the Pope spoke about protecting or endangering creatures including humans saying: “One such attack comes from laws or proposals which, in the name of fighting discrimination, strike at the biological basis of the difference between the sexes.”