Pope Francis has attacked same-sex marriage and civil unions, ahead of a debate in the Italian Senate at introducing civil unions for same-sex couples.
Italy is the last major Western European state to have no legal recognition of same-sex couples. The majority have equal marriage, while Germany and Malta have forms of civil partnerships.
Addressing members of the Vatican court, Pope Francis said: “There can be no confusion between the family God wants and any other type of union.”
The Pontiff added: “The family, founded on indissoluble matrimony that unites and allows procreation, is part of God’s dream and that of his Church for the salvation of humanity.”
Earlier this week, the country’s Justice Minister, Andrea Orlando, said his country must introduce same-sex civil unions.
Mr Orlando said Italy must meet the demands of Strasbourg courts that it must legally recognise the relationships of same-sex couples.
He said “an intervention is necessary, it’s a fact we have to face.”
A bill has been drafted by Premier Matteo Renzi’s government which would extend civil unions to same-sex couples.
However the bill has found staunch opposition, including by the Catholic Church.
In particular arguments against surrogacy, which some say will be legalised if adoption is allowed as part of the legislation.
Mr Renzi has said MPs should be able to vote with their conscience on the bill which has been delayed for a long time.
Supporters of the bill reject suggestion that it breaches the Italian constitution.