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PM's Christmas bid to calm Christian anger at gay marriage: David Cameron quotes Gospel of St John in annual message Ministers have come under fire from churchmen and MPs over the plansCameron made numerous Bible references during his Christmas messageSpeech appeared to be designed to defuse anger over the proposals
00:07 GMT, 24 December 2012
David Cameron offered an olive branch to Christians last night, issuing the most overtly religious Christmas message by a prime minister in recent times.
He quoted from the Gospel of St John in an apparent attempt to parade his religious credentials while controversy rages about his government’s plans to introduce gay marriage.
Ministers have come under fire from churchmen and MPs over the plans, on which the Commons will vote in the New Year.
Olive branch: David Cameron has issued the most overtly religious Christmas message by a PM in recent times in an apparent bid to defuse anger over plans for gay marriage
Mr Cameron has regularly ignored advice that politicians in the modern age should not ‘do God’. But the Prime Minister went further than ever last night when he quoted from the Bible, referring to Jesus as ‘the light of all mankind’ and the ‘Prince of Peace’.
He spoke about the ‘extraordinary year’ featuring the ‘spectacular’ Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee, when ‘we cheered our Queen to the rafters and praised the efforts of the Armed Forces’.
But the most striking passage of his message came when he turned to the meaning of Christmas.
‘Christmas gives us the opportunity to remember the Christmas story – the story about the birth of Jesus Christ and the hope that he brings to the countless millions who follow him,’ he said. ‘The Gospel of John tells us that in this man was life, and that his life was the light of all mankind, and that he came with grace, truth and love. Indeed, God’s word reminds us that Jesus was the Prince of Peace.’
He concluded: ‘So however you celebrate this time of year, it is my hope and prayer that you have a happy and peaceful Christmas.’
Criticism: Churchmen have accused the Prime Minister of being out of touch with the 'vast majority of practising religious people'
Mr Cameron’s message appeared designed to defuse anger at his decision to push forward plans for gay marriage despite heavy criticism.
The Bishop of Leicester has accused him of being out of touch with the ‘vast majority of practising religious people’ despite assurances that no churches will be forced to carry out such ceremonies.
In a speech last year Mr Cameron said the values of the Bible ‘go to the heart’ of what it means to be British, although he admitted he was no more than a ‘vaguely practising’ Christian ‘full of doubts’ about theological issues.
He also used his Christmas message, to be published today, ‘to pay particular tribute to our brave servicemen and women who are overseas helping bring safety and security to all of us at home; their families who cannot be with them over the holidays; and to all the dedicated men and women in the emergency services who are working hard to support those in need’.
He added: ‘When we are celebrating with family and friends, they and many others are all working on our behalf and deserve our thoughts and appreciation.’