Bishop Charles Scicluna has warned Catholic lawmakers against voting for a proposed civil unions bill in the southern European nation of Malta.

Scicluna told the Church-run paper Avvenire that Catholic MPs have a moral duty to oppose legislation recognizing the unions of gay and lesbian couples.

“[T]he Catholic lawmaker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against the bill,” Scicluna said. “Granting the vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good of society is a gravely immoral act.”

Scicluna has previously said that Pope Francis encouraged him to speak out against the bill during a December 12 private meeting.

The pope, Scicluna told the Sunday Times of Malta, was “quite shocked by the issue of civil unions and gay adoptions” and “reiterated that gay adoptions are 'un rigresso antropoligico' [an anthropological regression].”