Zimbabwe’s state-controlled Herald newspaper is backing the head of the Scottish Catholic Church in his attack on proposals to allow gay couples to marry.

The Scotsman reports that the paper published comments praising Cardinal O’Brien and said he was “among rare church leaders from the West who have seen the light”.

Cardinal O’Brien wrote in the Sunday Telegraph last weekend that the proposal to introduce marriage equality “represents a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”.

He defended the comments, in which he also likened equal marriage rights to the reintroduction of slavery, telling Radio 4 it was “time to call a halt now to what you may call progress in society”.

Reverend Godwin Chitsinde, of Spoken Word Ministries, told Zimbabwe’s Herald: “Gay marriage is biblically, morally and socially wrong. We welcome what Cardinal O’Brien has said [..] it’s quite encouraging.”

Pastor Abel Matimbe of End Time Message added: “We wish we could work with such progressive minds like him. Gay marriage is the worst kind of sin one can think of.”

Tom French, Policy Coordinator at the Equality Network told the Scotsman it was “telling” that Cardinal O’Brien had been “lauded by the Mugabe regime with its horrendous record of state-sponsored homophobia and human rights violations”.

He added: “People will wonder why the cardinal is so obsessed with opposing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.”

Virulently homophobic Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe recently launched his own attack on gay marriage during celebrations for his 88th birthday.

According to New Zimbabwe, he told reported 20,000 attendees: “We reject [gay marriage] outright and say to hell with you.

“You, David Cameron, are you suggesting that you don’t know that or is it some kind of insanity or part of the culture of Europeans.

“In their newspapers, that’s one of my sins. That I called [gays] worse than pigs and dogs because pigs know there are males and females.

“I won’t even call him a dog because my own dog will complain and say, but what have I done? It’s even in the Bible that you create through the system of marrying. That’s how we were born, so we reject that outright and say, to hell with you.

“You are free as a man to marry a woman and that is what we follow. That’s what produced you and me. This kind of insanity is now part of the culture.”

Green MSP Patrick Harvie told the Scotsman that having “this sort of company on this issue shows that the cardinal has got to think again”.