Spain’s ambassador to the Vatican met with Church officials over the weekend to protest about interference in the country’s elections by the country’s bishops.

Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos revealed on Saturday that Ambassador Francisco Vazquez expressed his “perplexity and surprise” at statement issued last week by the Spanish Bishop’s Conference.

“Catholics may support and join different parties it is also true that not all (electoral) programmes are equally compatible with the faith and Christian demands in life,” the bishops said.

This was widely interpreted as an instruction to the faithful not to vote for parties that support gay marriage or negotiate with Basque terrorists.

The Zapatero government introduced full gay marriage in Spain in 2005 and the main opposition party, Partido Popular, has said it does not intend to overturn it.

However, some PP politicians have hinted they may “return” to the issue.

The Socialist government reformed divorce laws and tried and failed to negotiate a peace agreement with terrorist group ETA in 2006.

The Socialists and PP are only a few percentage points apart in opinion polls. Elections for Spain’s parliament will be held on 9th March.

Foreign Minister Moratinos said in a speech at the weekend: “We want to maintain a better level of relations with the Holy See, but we do not understand this posture.”

The rift between church and government in Spain shows no signs of healing.

Last month Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said that the Church could no longer impose its morality on the country.