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Archbishop Vincent Nichols, English Catholic Leader, Cancels Gay-Friendly Masses In London

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In a move that echoes the increasingly conservative attitude of the Catholic Church in England, the Archbishop of Westminster has canceled the special LGBT-friendly masses that had been held twice a month in central London.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, canceled the so-called "Soho masses" because he said the church could no longer cater to churchgoers who were living in disagreement with the church's laws.

The Catholic leader released a statement in which he firmly reiterated the church's stance against same-sex marriage, saying that "proper use of our sexual faculty is within a marriage, between a man and a woman, open to the procreation and nurturing of new human life," Queerty reports.

The special Soho masses attempted to "extend the pastoral care of the church to those who experience same-sex attraction" in an effort to carry out Jesus' teaching of loving thy neighbor," according to the statement. However, while Britain's laws have begun to change to accommodate gay and lesbian marriage, "the principles of the pastoral care to be offered by the church and the church’s teaching on matters of sexual morality have not.”

The services had been held since 2007 at Our Lady of the Assumption, a 18th-century church in the heart of London's gay neighborhood, Reuters reports. The services had the approval of the Vatican's top doctrinal official, a former archbishop of San Francisco. That official, Cardinal William Levada, has since been replaced by the more conservative Archbishop Gerhard Mueller.

Despite continued opposition from some groups inside his coalition government, not to mention a personal admonition from the Pope, British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he guarantees the country will legalize same sex marriage by 2015, the Telegraph reports.

The Guardian notes that Archbishop Nichols has been at the forefront of the church's fight to stop Cameron's pledge, criticizing the government's plan as "Orwellian" in a Christmas Day interview on the BBC.

Ruth Hunt, director of public affairs for LGBT rights charity Stonewall, expressed disappointment with the decision.

"Given what's happened over Christmas, where there were vitriolic and mean messages from the pulpit about same-sex marriage, there has never been a more important time to provide a safe space for gay Catholics to pray," Hunt, who is Catholic, told the BBC.

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