By Alicja Ptak
WARSAW, March 1 (Reuters) - Several dozen activists protested in front of a Warsaw church guarded by police on Sunday as a Catholic archbishop, criticized for his anti-LGBT language, celebrated mass.
Last year, in a sermon, Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski said Poland was under siege from a "rainbow plague" of gay rights campaigners who he compared to Poland's former Communist rulers.
The church in Poland's capital, full of worshippers, was surrounded by police in armored cars, while protesters carried banners reading: "I do not tolerate intolerance", "Rainbow plague welcomes you" and "Archbishop Jedraszewski should resign".
"We are protesting against archbishop Jedraszewski," said filmmaker Bartosz Staszewski, 29. "We are not a rainbow plague, as he has said. We are the citizens of this country and we want to look him in the face."
Unlike nearly all western European countries, which have legalized same-sex marriage and the adoption of children by same-sex couples in recent years, the former Communist countries of the EU's east have mostly held back on expanding gay rights.
Same-sex marriage and adoptions by same-sex couples are not legally recognised in Poland, where the Catholic church is hugely influential.
Anti-gay rhetoric has been a theme of the nationalist ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party in recent years. The party sees cultural attitudes as having a strong influence on voters' decisions, according to sociologists.
When asked about Sunday's protest and accusations that the Catholic Church supports the PiS, a church spokesman had no comment, saying that "these subjects had already been commented on several times".
When approached by the activist Bartosz Staszewski after the mass, Jedraszewski said he had no time to engage in discussion.
(Writing by Marcin Goclowski. Editing by Ros Russell)
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