Cyprus to hold first gay pride festival

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus' Orthodox Christian Church lashed out against homosexuality Thursday after activists announced the country's first gay pride festival.

The Holy Synod, the Church's highest decision-making body, said it looks upon efforts to give homosexuality social and legal acceptance with "concern and grief." "The Church and science consider homosexuality to be the human being's fall from grace and an illness and not a natural way of life or choice," the Holy Synod said in a statement.

It said although the Church condemns homosexuality, it loves and supports the "fallen" and prays that they seek God's mercy. The statement came after activists said a two-week festival would culminate in a May 31 parade in the capital, Nicosia.

The head of Accept LGBT Cyprus, Costas Gavrielides, said the festival will include film screenings, book presentations, musical events and participants from the Turkish Cypriot community in the ethnically split island's breakaway north.

European Union member Cyprus decriminalized homosexuality a dozen years ago but it still ranks low in terms of gay rights, according to activists. Gavrielides said the country still needs to pass laws recognizing same-sex partnerships and against inciting anti-gay violence.

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