The opposition of the Roman Catholic church to gay Pride parades reached a new low today when the Archbishop of Riga called homosexuality “total corruption in the sexual arena” and “an unnatural form of prostitution.”

An open letter from Cardinal Janis Pujats demands a referendum on the issue of same-sex marriage and calls on crowds of people to take to the streets of Riga to oppose the Pride march on June 3rd.

“If there are 1,000 sexually crazy people acting foolishly in the square of Pride, then the people’s march in Riga should have at least 40,000 or 50,000,” he wrote.

“That proportion would give the government and public thought enough reason to leave sexual perversion outside the law.”

The Roman Catholic leader recommends holding the “provocative demonstration (Pride), in a location that is closed and limited some way – a garden or square.”

The Cardinal calls gay Pride a “foreign-inspired action” and his wide-ranging attacks show an underlying unhappiness with the new Latvia as an EU member.

“If a person’s beliefs are godless, then there is little hope to get rid of sexual dependency.

“And it is not wonder that homosexuals, now that they have noticed quite a sexualised society, are attacking us with their perversions,” he wrote.

The Cardinal claims that no human rights document covers gay people as a protected minority.

He also uses a report from 243 Latvian doctors as proof that homosexuality is an illness.

“The claim which says that homosexuality is a permissible version of normal behaviour or a special inborn disease is not true.

“The dependency created by this immorality and the resulting perverse behaviours must be seen as a sickness,” the doctors’ report reads.

Last month Christian groups in Latvia welcomed fundamentalist US preachers and to the country and talked tactics about opposing gay rights.

A meeting organised by Janis Vanags, Archbishop of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church, was attended by Cardinal Pujats and representatives of the Orthodox, Penecostals and other Christian groups.

They were addressed by Kenneth Hutcherson, who runs a ‘super-church’ in Seattle and is a vehement opponent of gay rights.

He told the Latvians that homosexuality was spreading rapidly, and that the “gay lobby” had increasing political influence across the world.

“We need to do everything to ensure that even in the European Union it does not lose its principles.

“It is a holy right of any nation to decide in what society to live,” he told the assembled crowd, which included senior MPs.

Latvia joined the EU in 2004.

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has pledged his support for the Riga Pride event, and London Pride has twinned with Riga as a show of solidarity.

Last year the march was attacked and missiles and human excrement were thrown at participants.

Gay and lesbian protesters were refused permission to march in Riga on the 22nd July 2006 by city officials, who cited security advice from the interior ministry.

A group of around 50 activists held a service of tolerance at a local Anglican church.

A gang of neo-Nazi skinheads, ultra-nationalists and members of the Orthodox church besieged the church, pelting the activists with excrement.

It was reported that local police stood and watched as events unfolded and declined to intervene.

The new Mayor of the Latvian capital has publicly backed the 2007 gay rights march in the city in June.

In an interview with Diena newspaper last month Janis Birks said he was ashamed at events last year and called for tolerance and understanding on all sides.

“The problem is not in the march but sexual orientation,” said Mr Birks.

“We need to have discussion within society. What happened on the side of sexual minorities and the other side, I think we need understanding from both sides.”

Mr Birks said that if security could be provided, the march could go ahead.

Ken Livingstone, welcomed his Latvian counterpart’s comments, but urged Riga authorities to do more to protect gay people on the march.

“Security is something that is under the control of the authorities,” said Mr Livingstone.

“It is their duty to ensure that demonstrators are able to exercise their right to peaceful protest.”

The Cardinal’s call to arms is bound to impact on the security situation at Riga Pride.

Telling Catholics that “we cannot keep quiet,” he concluded:

“I can add that during this time, the faithful must not be passive. They must be witnesses of God, sufficiently active to defend their Christian values in a licentious world. Not with weapons, but with their position.

“Not just at worship services, but in civilian life. For all Christians whose faith is a matter of the heart, and for all others who love their families – you must be prepared to go out into the streets, not to create disorder, but to offer a disciplined position in support of the government, because on this very important issue of morals, the government is on the side of Christians.”