(EDGE) The Catholic Church took a step further away from equality Monday when Pope Francis, during an interview with French Catholic Newspaper La Croix, said Catholic public officials should not be obliged to officiate same-sex marriages or civil unions, Thai independent newspaper The Nation reports.

"Once a law is approved, the state should be respectful of consciences. Conscientious objection must be possible on all legal jurisdictions, because it is a human right," Francis said to La Croix.

Francis' comments come a week after lawmakers in Italy approved legislation allowing for civil unions for same-sex couples. According to AP, the legislation grants same-sex couples many of the same rights as married couples: the possibility of having the same last name, inheritance rights, hospital visitation rights and medical decision-making rights. But it stops far short of authorizing gay marriage.

AP also notes that the Vatican, which holds sway politically and socially in overwhelmingly Catholic Italy, maintains that marriage is a lifelong bond between man and woman.

The Nation notes that Francis' comments to La Croix Monday mark the first time the pontiff has commented on same-sex marriage since civil unions were legalized in Italy last week.