The Archbishop of Chicago has stood by his statement likening gay pride supporters to the Klu Klux Klan, saying the organisers of the city’s gay pride parade “invited an obvious comparison” with the white-supremacist hate group.

Cardinal Francis George, a former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, made the original comment to Fox Chicago last week after concerns that a planned gay pride parade would interrupt a Sunday morning mass.

He said: “You know, you don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism.”

The cardinal has since issued a statement saying: “When the 2012 Parade organizers announced a time and route change this year, it was apparent that the Parade would interfere with divine worship in a Catholic parish on the new route.

“When the pastor’s request for reconsideration of the plans was ignored, the organizers invited an obvious comparison to other groups who have historically attempted to stifle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church.

“One such organization is the Ku Klux Klan which, well into the 1940s, paraded through American cities not only to interfere with Catholic worship but also to demonstrate that Catholics stand outside of the American consensus. It is not a precedent anyone should want to emulate.”

Organisers of the parade, which has been run since 1970, had planned to move the June event’s start time to 10am to accommodate an increasing number of attendees, but this plan was shelved.

According to estimates, the number of parade-goers increased from around 500,000 in previous years to 750,000 in 2011 and the earlier timing was chosen to manage the larger numbers of people.

However, objections were raised that the proposed timing would interfere with the mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, which would be on the route.

Parade organiser Richard Pfeiffer and Chicago Alderman Thomas Tunney said before Christmas: “We met with representatives from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church last week to hear the parish’s concerns about the proposed changes to the 2012 Gay Pride Parade.

“We discussed moving the start time back to 12:00 Noon to help accommodate Sunday services along the parade route. After consulting with the various City departments, we believe this is an agreeable compromise to help keep the parade safe and manageable while respecting the diversity of our neighborhood.”

The Archbishop concluded: “It is terribly wrong and sinful that gays and lesbians have been harassed and subjected to psychological and even physical harm. These tragedies can be addressed, however, without disturbing the organized and orderly public worship of God in a country that claims to be free.

“I am grateful that all parties concerned resolved this problem by moving the Parade’s start time so as not to conflict with the celebration of Mass that Sunday.”

Some groups have called for George, who is 74, to resign. Catholic bishops are mandated to retire at 75.