The chief rabbi has asked Pope Benedict XVI to denounce an international gay festival, scheduled to take place this year in Jerusalem, reported

World Pride 2006, a weeklong festival and rally for gay, lesbian, transsexual, and transgendered people, is planned for Aug. 6-12. The last such event, in Rome six years ago, drew about 500,000 people.

In a letter, Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar asked the Pope to, "strongly and unequivocally come out against this terrible phenomenon, out of hope that a general protest from different religious leaders will awaken the lost hearts who are deceiving themselves and immeasurably harming their souls.”

According to, some religious leaders and lawmakers of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths expressed their great dismay Tuesday at plans to hold the event in Jerusalem. At a special session, lawmakers appealed to organizers to reconsider holding the parade.

The majority of city council members - 24 out of 31 - have signed a petition against the parade. A poll indicates that only 12 percent of citizens support the gay rally and that 69 percent oppose it.

"The residents of Jerusalem are attracted by the unique character of this city. There is no reason to harm this singularity for a simple exhibitionist desire," said MP and rabbi Yitshak Levi, quoted in the top-selling Yediot Aharonot daily.

According to the Associated Press, many in Jerusalem believe the festival is a sacrilegious event that would only defile the holy nature of the city.

"This is about a pride that is shameful and misplaced and which encourages exhibitionism," said Rabbi Henri Kahm.

Several anti-gay demonstrations are planned around the event, including a so-called "humility parade," reported the AP.

Homosexuality was illegal in Israel until 1988.