The Roman Catholic Church has come out in opposition to the government’s efforts to legalize divorce in the Philippines. Father Jerome Secillano of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said the church only supported annulment as the separation option for married couples, Channel NewsAsia reported.

“The church has always been on the side of traditional marriage. I mean to say the traditional marriage is between a man and a woman, and that it is a lifetime commitment,” Secillano said.

He said an annulment was less damaging to a family because the marriage never existed in the first place. He said the church wanted to protect Filipino families.

“They might be together in one house, might be believing they are husband and wife, but they are not essentially husband and wife in the mind of the church and also in the mind of the state,” the priest said.

The Philippines is the only country in the world, aside from the Vatican, that prohibits divorce, except for Muslim citizens. A divorce bill has passed the Philippine Congress and is expected to be debated soon in the Senate.

Read: Filipinas want divorce to be legal in their country