Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols (pictured) has cancelled gay-inclusive masses in London as opposition to the UK government’s marriage equality plans from religious leaders heats up.

Nichols, who heads up the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, announced this week that the masses at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Warwick St, Soho would end. He said the church could no longer cater to churchgoers who were living in disagreement with the church’s laws.

Nichols has consistently opposed the government’s plans to allow same-sex marriages, but said the decision to stop the Soho masses was not explicitly linked to that debate. He said that “people with same-sex attraction” would continue to receive pastoral care.

“Given what’s happened over Christmas, where there were vitriolic and mean messages from pulpit about same-sex marriage, there has never been a more important time to provide a safe space for gay Catholics to pray,” Stonewall director of public affairs Ruth Hunt told the BBC.

In December, UK Women and Equalities Minister Maria Miller announced marriage equality legislation would be brought forward this year.

Religious institutions that do not wish to marry same-sex couples will not have to.

The country’s Equality Act 2010 will be amended to ensure that no discrimination claim could be brought against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry same-sex couples, or for their refusal to let their premises be used for a same-sex marriage ceremony..

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