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Top Russian patriarch assails homosexuality

Calls it both sin and an illness

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II spoke to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe yesterday. Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II spoke to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe yesterday. (Jean-Marc Loos/Reuters)

STRASBOURG, France - Russia's senior religious leader assailed homosexuality as a sin and an illness yesterday and urged Europe to rediscover its Christian values.

Speaking to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, a body that polices human rights in Europe, Patriarch Alexy II, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, made few concessions to West European attitudes before a planned meeting today with French bishops and President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Though he has traveled before to countries that are predominantly Roman Catholic, this visit is his highest-profile trip to Western Europe and another step toward better relations with the Vatican, from which the Orthodox Church has been estranged for almost a thousand years.

But in his appearance, Alexy focused mainly on the need for Europe to rediscover its Christian values and abandon moral relativism, arguing that there was a "break between human rights and morality, and this break threatens the European civilization."

"We can see it in a new generation of rights that contradict morality, and in how human rights are used to justify immoral behavior," Alexy said.

His comments on homosexuality provoked a direct challenge to the ideas of nondiscrimination pioneered by the Council of Europe, among other bodies.

He said "no one should force me and my brothers and sisters in faith to keep quiet when we call something a sin, when it is a sin according to the word of God."

Homosexuality is, he continued "an illness" and a "distortion of the human personality, like kleptomania."

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