A SENIOR Scottish church leader has accused the UK Government of appearing intent on robbing the poorest in society while helping the richest.

The Very Reverend Kevin Holdsworth, Provost of St Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow, described the Coalition's policy on benefit cuts for the less well-off and its approach towards the tax affairs of the better-off as "ungodly".

It came just hours after David Cameron, in a rare reference to God in a modern day Prime Minister's Christmas message, quoted from St John's Gospel, that Jesus Christ was the Prince of Peace who "came with grace, truth and love".

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Citing the words of the Magnificat, Mr Holdsworth said he believed Christ's mother taught him that a greater threat to society came from the feckless rich rather than the vulnerable poor.

In his sermon, he said he shared people's disappointment in so many of Britain's institutions.

He said: "The Hillsborough inquiry seems to point to major failings of due process in policing. The media have been revealing scandal but also being hit by scandal after scandal too.

"And we live with a Government seemingly intent on robbing the poorest while giving tax cuts to the rich, removing the benefits of the disabled and most vulnerable in society while seeming to be incapable of collecting the taxes from rich multinational corporations.

"Such things are ungodly and beneath all our best hopes and expectations of ourselves."

Earlier this year, the Provost clashed with fellow churchmen on the issue of gay marriage, describing the Catholic Church's approach as hugely negative.

He sparked a row by openly inviting gay people to a service at St Mary's, saying it was for anyone who wanted to worship in a church where "gay people are welcomed and not marginalised".

In his sermon, Mr Holdsworth said 2012 was a year in which old certainties seemed to have crumbled, referring to how respect for the Church had declined and how "the recent vote over women bishops in the Church of England reminded me that it isn't just gay people who are treated as though they are less than fully whole and human by some of God's people".

Meantime, Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, the leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, launched his most outspoken attack on the Coalition, insisting it had no mandate to legislate on same-sex marriage.

He said: "There was no announcement in any party manifesto, no Green Paper, no statement in the Queen's Speech and yet here we are on the verge of primary legislation. From a democratic point of view, it's a shambles.

"George Orwell would be proud of that manoeuvre; the process is shambolic."

The church leader pointed out how during a "period of listening", those who had responded were "7-1 against same-sex marriage".

Speaking during Christmas Eve mass at Westminster Cathedral, the archbishop said: "Sometimes sexual expression can be without the public bond of the faithfulness of marriage and its ordering to new life.

"Even governments mistakenly promote such patterns of sexual intimacy as objectively to be approved and even encouraged among the young."

John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, the second most senior churchman in the Church of England, told his congregation that to God the quality of people's relationships was more important than the rightness of their convictions.

He said: "Sadly, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are often bad at learning how to disagree but we do need to remain in harmony.

"If we cannot experience and demonstrate the reality of this in Christ, what have we to offer to the rest of society with its fractured relationships?"