Pride organisers in the Bulgarian capital have clashed with the Orthodox Church over what event organisers see as tacit support for violence against marchers.

Sofia’s fifth annual pride event is due to go ahead on 30 June and has drawn criticism from the Church.

However, Father Evgeniy Yanakiev, from the Sliven eparchy, the equivalent of a diocese in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, said stones should be thrown at participants, Sofian news agency Novinite reported.

Pride organisers have called on the Church to distance itself from any suggestion of violence against the parade.

Instead, the Holy Synod issued a statement saying “homosexuality is an unnatural passion that undoubtedly harms the personality, the family and the society.”

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has about 6.5 million members in Bulgaria, which has a total population of 7.4 million.

A gay pride event was “immoral” in its view and would constitute a “harmful demonstration that violates the rights of Orthodox Christians”.

The British Embassy in Sofia has supported the pride event and last year, situated on the parade route, it flew the rainbow flag.