Pope Francis has given his blessing to a referendum that would ban marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples in Slovakia.

During Wednesday’s general audience in Rome, BuzzFeed reports the Catholic leader said: “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 defence of the family, the vital cell of society”.

Slovakia will hold its referendum on Saturday.

The questions on the referendum ask whether voters would like marriage to be specifically defined as one man and one woman, whether gay and lesbian couples should be banned from adopting and whether children should be taught sex education classes against their parents’ wishes.

A ruling by the Constitutional Court of Slovakia in October said the referendum does not violate the country’s constitution.

Last month, Pope Francis attacked same-sex marriage, saying those who support it are attempting “redefine the very institution of marriage”.