The annual message from the head of the Roman Catholic Church to the world has been unveiled.

Pope Benedict’s statement will mark World Peace Day on January 1st.

It is entitled The Human Family, A Community of Peace, and in it he calls for the dismantling of nuclear weapons and environmental co-operation and describes gay marriage as “an obstacle on the road to peace.”

The 80-year-old German-born pontiff theorises that peace and the family are inherently linked and any threat to the “traditional family” will be opposed by Catholics.

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, explained the thinking behind the Papal statement to journalists.

“Many legislative initiatives work against peace by weakening the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman, by directly or indirectly forcing families not to be open to accepting a morally responsible life, or by not recognising the family as having primary responsibility in the education of children,” he said.

The Pope’s message emphasises his opposition to gay and lesbian relationships.

“The natural family, as an intimate communion of life and love, based on marriage between a man and a woman, constitutes “the primary place of ‘humanisation’ for the person and society,” he wrote.

“The family is therefore rightly defined as the first natural society, a divine institution that stands at the foundation of life of the human person as the prototype of every social order.

“Whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace.

“This point merits special reflection: everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of a new life, everything that obstructs its right to be primarily responsible for the education of its children, constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace.”