A senior Russian Archpriest has said the country’s Orthodox Church cares for gay and lesbian people and accepts them, but their sexual orientation is a “destructive sin.”

Father Vsevolod Chaplin, in an interview with newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, added that gay people who say they are happy are lying.

He is deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations.

“Such people are deeply unhappy,” he told the paper.

“I know it from confessions and numerous life stories.

“It’s not by chance that they die earlier and there’re more suicides, drug addicts and alcoholics among them.

“The Church lovingly accepts everyone, including those who have passion for the people of the same sex.

“But just because she loves them, she says unisexual love is a sin. A destructive sin.”

The priest went on to say that he is “neither a homophobe nor a lesbianophobe” but felt he had to warn of the dangers of homosexuality.

Father Vsevolod’s comments are in marked contrast to the more combative tone preferred by more senior Orthodox leaders.

In January his boss, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, head of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relations, said that not viewing homosexuality as a sin will lead to a variety of other sexual perversions.

“Morality is either absolute or it does not exist. If you excuse homosexuality, why not excuse paedophilia?” he said in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegal.

When the interviewer pointed out that there was a “great difference” between homosexuality and paedophilia, as the latter violated the “personal freedom” of children, Bishop Kirill said that people in the future would say that “12-year-old girls were considered children before, but now they develop much faster.

“Twenty years ago nobody could imagine that Germany would legalise homosexual marriages,” he continued.

“However, they get used to it by now. It is a matter of principle. There is one moral nature.

“The task of the Church is to say that sin is sin. Otherwise, the Church is not needed.”

In March 2007, Bishop Kirill objected to Moscow hosting a gay pride parade.

“It is directed against the majority of Russian society.

“We believe that the law should not interfere in citizens’ private lives.

“You can sin if you want to, but you will answer to God.

“However, if you are trying to propagate your sin by seducing and degrading people, society must oppose it.”

In a statement issued in August 2000, he explained that globalisation would inevitably lead to the kingdom of the anti-Christ and that it was the Russian Orthodox Church’s role to defend Russian nationality and religious identity.

At a meeting of the Council of Europe last year Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II called homosexuality an “illness” and attacked what he called “homosexual propaganda” influencing young people during an address to the council’s parliamentary assembly.

The patriarch was there as part of council’s regular debates with political and religious leaders.

He said homosexuality was “an illness and a distortion of the human personality” comparable to kleptomania.