Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, has compared same-sex marriage legislation in Western countries to Nazi and apartheid laws.
“For the first time in human history, legislation is at odds with the moral nature of human beings – what’s good and evil, sin and righteousness,” the 70-year-old told state-funded outlet Russia Today in a broadcast interview.
“It’s not the same thing of course, but we could compare this to the apartheid in Africa or Nazi laws,” Patriarch Kirill said.
“When the law went against inherent moral values the people rebelled - they knew it was artificial and against their nature,” he said.
Equating same-sex marriage with immoral acts such as stealing, the religious leader said that while people could come from different backgrounds and different countries, everyone understood the most basic morals.
“Good is good and evil is evil,” Patriarch Kirill said, “so the church can never approve of this."
The religious leader did, however, advocate a compassionate approach to same-sex attracted people individually.
“We don’t condemn people who have different sexual preferences, it’s on their conscience,” he said, “they shouldn’t be discriminated against or punished, as used to be common practice in some states."
“But under no circumstances should this be accepted as a social norm no different from the social norm that stems from our moral nature, meaning marriage between a man and wife who create a family and have children,” he said.
The leader went on to say that the “new trend” posed “a significant threat for the existence of the human race.”
Patriarch Kirill, a close supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, also spoke warmly of US President-elect Donald Trump.
The leader said he looked forward to increased cooperation between the US and Russia – unlike other leaders, “Mr Trump’s words give us hope,” Patriarch Kirill said.
Russia and the United States have been growing increasingly antagonistic in recent years, with Russia’s invasion of East Ukraine and support for President Assad in Syria testing America’s influence.
Patriarch Kirill also condemned political correctness and slammed multiculturalism for diluting religious traditions.
“Multiculturalism has no future because it implies different cultures mixing,” he said.
LGBT+ people in Russia have been facing increasing discrimination in Russia under President Putin’s leadership, with police turning a blind eye to homophobic violence and laws passed which make it unlawful to promote homosexuality as ‘normal’.