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Pope Francis kisses child in St. Peter's Square on Nov. 6, 2013.neneo /

ROME, February 5, 2015 ( – Pope Francis offered his support this week to pro-family Slovaks who have championed a referendum this Saturday to outlaw “gay marriage” and adoption of children by same-sex partners.

In his weekly general audience on Wednesday, during the section where the pope normally greets different nationalities, Francis 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 defense of the family, the vital cell of society.”

In his address, the pope continued his weekly catechesis on the family by speaking about the figure of the father. Naming as the ideal St. Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary, Francis said, “Every family needs a father.”

It is the father’s role to teach children “to feel and act, speak and judge with wisdom and righteousness.” The “wise” and “mature” father corrects mistakes and gives “a testimony of rigor and firmness.”

In June last year, Slovakia passed an amendment to the constitution that defines marriage as a “unique bond between a man and a woman.” The amendment sets up a considerable legal roadblock to any plans to create “same-sex marriage.” When the amendment was proposed, ILGA Europe, one of the largest homosexualist lobby groups in the world, issued a demand that the country drop the proposal and adopt the gender ideology.

The referendum on the “protection of the family” comes after the pro-family group Alliance for Family gathered 400,000 signatures for the proposal, with the support of the Catholic bishops. Even though the country has already banned same-sex “marriage,” the referendum’s backers hope a popular vote will pre-empt potential European court decisions.

The referendum will ask voters to support or reject the following four proposals:

  • that marriage is defined as a union of one man and one woman;
  • that adoptive parents must be married, to provide the best environment for the children involved;
  • that parents be allowed to opt out their children from school classes dealing in sex education and euthanasia;
  • that same-sex registered partnerships be banned.

The pope’s support for Slovakia’s defenders of the family follows comments he made in Manila, denouncing attempts to re-write the nature of the family.

“The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage. These realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation,” Pope Francis said.