The Dutch foreign minister has criticised Pope Benedict XVI for his opposition to equal marriage and warns the Catholic leader that everyone “is unique”.

Irish Times reports Frans Timmermans, a former diplomat, responded in unusually strong terms to the Pope’s Christmas speech in which he denounced equal marriage as destroying the very “essence of the human creature”.

The Pope also quoted the chief rabbi of France in saying the global campaign for marriage equality was an “attack” on the traditional family made up of a father, mother and children.

The Pope said he found an essay, written by Rabbi Gilles Bernheim “profoundly moving” - it went on to say that marriage equality advocates “will use gay marriage as a Trojan horse” in a campaign to “deny sexual identity and erase sexual differences” and “undermine the heterosexual fundamentals of our society.”

In response, Mr Timmermans said: “If every person is unique… then why should that unique person not have the right to stand up for his or her own sexual orientation?”

In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalise equal marriage.

Earlier this month, in a message for World Day of Peace 2013, the Pope described same-sex marriage as a threat to justice and peace, adding that it will cause harm for society.