Silvio Berlusconi is pushing for the legalization of civil unions between gays in Italy, but not same-sex marriage.

In Rome, where politicians are sensitive to Vatican policy, the leader of Italy’s largest center-right party told reporters Thursday that allowing civil unions by gays would be the “right compromise” between freedom for all and “deep respect for Christian values.”

The Catholic Church says only a man and a woman can be married.

Berlusconi’s fiancé, Francesca Pascale, recently told a radio interviewer that she favors the legalization gay marriage and civil unions.

But the former Italian premier is holding up Germany as the model of his plan.

Since 2001, Germany has allowed civil unions but not formal marriage for gay couples.