The suggestions by an ultraconservative Catholic radio network that Italy has been punished by God with devastating earthquakes after legalising gay unions are offensive and scandalous, a top Vatican official said.

Archbishop Angelo Becciu, who acts as the Vatican’s Deputy Prime Minister, told newsmen on Saturday, in comments later picked up by Vatican Radio.

He said “These are offensive remarks for believers and scandalous for non-believers.”

Since Aug. 24, central Italy had been hit by five earthquakes with magnitudes of 5 or more and 22,700 seismic events of lower intensity.

Almost 300 people died amid the quakes, which left tens of thousands homeless.

During a call-in session on Thursday, Radio Maria presenter, Father Giovanni Cavalcoli, said “the natural disasters are God’s punishment for the original sin.

“But may also be a rebuke against laws that offend Church views on family, marriage and sexual morals.

“It really makes you think,  let us call it God’s punishment, for sure it is a very strong rebuke from God’s providence to rediscover what are the principles of natural law,’’ Cavalcoli said.

However,  Becciu dismissed the remarks as “pre-Christian” and “contrary to the image of God given to us by Christ” and to the Virgin Mary’s “merciful” nature.

“May earthquake victims please forgive us, the solidarity of the pope is with you all,’’ he apologised.

On its website, Radio Maria apologised and distanced itself from Cavalcoli’s “unacceptable” views, saying they run against the key Catholic message of mercy and “Pope Francis’ pastoral actions.”

Meanwhile, the network said the presenter’s show had been suspended.