The leader of Scotland’s Roman Catholic Church has attacked the country’s government ministers for undermining the sanctity of marriage by allowing “gay weddings”.

Archbishop of Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, is also set to launch an attack on the Scottish Executive for cutting the minimum separation period of divorce.

In his New Year’s Day homily at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, the cardinal said that during 2006, he would urge the Executive in particular to give “unequivocal support” to marriage.

He also said he would criticise changes in society which have “promoted alternative lifestyles whilst undermining values which for generations have been treasured”.

Legislation allowing civil partnerships came into effect across the UK in December. The Cardinal claimed in his homily that the family remains “the basic social unit” to be recognised, protected and promoted as the most vital building block of society.

“Sadly, we live at a time when the truth of marriage and family is obscured and distorted,” a statement from the cardinal read. “When our lawmakers condone and endorse trends in society, which are ultimately ruinous of family life, we are entitled to question their motivation and condemn their behaviour.”

The cardinal’s comments follow a call last week from Pope Benedict XVI to the British Government to acknowledge “the indispensable role of stable marriage and family life” for the good of society.

The Executive defended its stance to update the law, writing: “In the modern world – while marriage remains the dominant family form – parents divorce, couples co-habit, and children are born to unmarried parents. We need family law to reflect this reality – to make sure that everyone, and particularly every child, is protected.”

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