Topless anti-homophobia protesters soak Belgian archbishop with water during debate

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Topless activists from human rights protest group FEMEN have demonstrated during a Catholic Church debate in Brussels, Belgium, soaking the country’s Catholic leader with water.

Four members of Femen entered the auditorium at the ULB university in the Belgian capital, where a debate featuring André-Jozef Léonard, the archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, was taking place.

They held up signs saying “stop homophobia”, and “Anus Dei is coming”, a play on words on the name of a controversial institution within the Catholic church.

De Standaard, a Flemish publication, reported that Léonard, the Primate of Belgium, was participating in the debate around blasphemy and freedom of speech, when members of the group poured water over his head.

“This was aimed against Mr Léonard’s homophobia, but we also don’t agree with other positions, like the one on abortion,” one of the activists said in an interview with news agency BELGA.

The Facebook page for the group read: “if André Léonard has decided to inflict the punishment of abstinence and celibacy upon himself, Femen does not tolerate that he wants to impose that chastity on the gay community as the only remedy to what he defines as a disease.”

In an interview at the end of March, Léonard said that gay people should live lives of celibacy. He defined homosexuality as “a given that people find in themselves and whose origins remain somewhat mysterious.”

The Belgian confederation of bishops has spoken against Femen’s actions, but has said that it will not press charges.

Upon arriving in Germany for a trade visit, Russian President Vladimir Putin was greeted by a topless rally from members of Femen.

Members of the group also took to Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral in celebration of the announcement of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, and previously demonstrated during his weekly prayer, in favour of LGBT rights.

In an attempt at a pastiche of Femen, a group of men in France recently declared “No to Gay Marriage” by taking their shirts off in the streets. as a demonstration of how the government’s push for marriage equality is threatening their freedom.