Malta’s Auxiliary Bishop has said that Pope Francis was “shocked” by plans to introduce adoption laws for same-sex couples to the country, urging the bishop to do more to speak out against the legislation.

Speaking in an interview with The Times of Malta, bishop Charles Scicluna said he and Pope Francis met on 12 December and discussed issues around the Civil Union Bill.

He said: “We discussed many aspects…and when I raised the issue that’s worrying me as a bishop [the right for gay couples to adopt] he encouraged me to speak out.”

According to the Bishop, he responded “that is exactly what I did in my Christmas sermon,” where he had argued God’s own son was raised by a man and a woman, and not by two men or two women.

Previously, he had said: “While the sexual activity of heterosexual couples has a fundamental role in producing future members of the society, that of same-sex couples does not have a role in society as it does not produce offspring.”

Bishop Scicluna added that the pontiff told him that Christmas is no fairy tale, and people must face reality.

“My sermon was not about the rights of gay people but about children’s rights”, Bishop Scicluna responded.

A bill to introduce civil unions for gay couples in Malta is currently at its second reading in Malta.

Malta’s Equality Minister Helena Dalli told a press conference last month that the Civil Unions Bill will recognise same-sex partnerships and give them the same rights and duties as married heterosexual couples – including the right to adopt children.

Bishop Scicluna, however in February stepped in to condemn a provocative letter written by zealous Catholic churchgoer Joe Zammit who claimed there can only be lust and not love between gay people.

Malta’s Catholic bishops last month expressed concern over the country’s proposed civil partnership bill, stating “Children should preferably be brought up by their parents, a man and a woman.”