Dawid Mycek and Jakub Kwiecinski travelled to the Vatican to ask the Pope for help against Poland’s homophobia.

A gay Polish couple, Dawid Mycek and Jakub Kwiecinski, have travelled to the Vatican and unfurled a Pride flag calling for help. They hope that the Pope may assist them in condemning the wave of homophobia that is currently enveloping Poland.

The couple unfurled the Pride flag during the Pope’s Angelus Prayer, which is held at St. Peter’s Basilica, and returned to St. Peter’s Square during the week in an attempt to have their message heard.

The couple have previously protested against Poland’s homophobia by using rainbow face masks. They received an overwhelmingly positive reaction for their activism, but have also been subjected to homophobic abuse for promoting a “homosexual plague.”

Writing about their decision to fly the flag, the couple said on Instagram: “Our big rainbow flag flew proudly for several dozen minutes, and on it a large inscription HELP. Because if Pope Francis himself wears a rainbow cross and says: ‘It doesn’t matter that you are gay! God loves you as you are’, it’s time for the Polish Church to teach the same thing, which still fuels hatred against LGBT people.

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Taki widok miał dziś papież Franciszek pod swoim oknem podczas Anioła Pańskiego. Nasza wielka tęczowa flaga powiewała dumnie kilkadziesiąt minut, a na niej duży napis HELP. Bo skoro papież Franciszek sam nosi tęczowy krzyż i mówi: "To, że jesteś gejem nie ma żadnego znaczenia! Bóg Cię kocha takim jakim jesteś", to czas żeby nauczył tego samego także polski Kościół, który wciąż podsyca nienawiść wobec LGBT. Zadziwiło nas jak wielu katolików z różnych krajów podchodziło do nas ze słowami wsparcia. Nikt nie czuł się tęczą obrażony, Policja nas nie wygoniła, a gdy zostaliśmy sami na placu godzinę dłużej, wyszedł do nas jeden z księży, zaoferował wodę i wysłuchał co mamy do powiedzenia. Także panel dyskusyjny LGBT, na którym jesteśmy, wykorzystaliśmy aby donieść na Polskę! Bo tęcza nie obraża! #gaymarriage #gays #vatican #popefrancis #helppolishlgbt #lgbt #polishlgbt #tęczanirobraża #słowonaniedzielę #angelusdomini

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“We were amazed how many Catholics from different countries approached us with words of support. Nobody felt offended by the rainbow, the police did not chase us out, and when we were alone in the square an hour longer, one of the priests came to us, offered water and listened to what we had to say.

They added: “We also used the LGBT discussion panel we’re attending to report on Poland! Because the rainbow does not offend!”

Pope Francis is considerably more progressive than other popes in the past when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights including telling a gay victim of clerical sexual abuse that God had made him gay and that he loved him anyway, and criticising anti-gay politicians, saying their speeches reminded him of ones given by Hitler.

On the negative side, and buckle up there’s a lot, he’s said that gay children should be taken to psychiatristsrefused to accept that LGBTQ families were real, said that teaching children about gender identity was “indoctrination”, supported anti-same-sex marriage protesters in Mexico and refused to believe that gay men could join the clergy, calling homosexuality “fashionable”.

Poland is experiencing a massive wave of homophobia at the moment, enabled by its President, Andrzej Duda, who made opposition to LGBTQ+ rights a key plank of his re-election campaign. This has led to many queer people fleeing the country for their safety.

Last year, a third of Poland also declared themselves an “LGBT-free zone” free from “LGBT ideology.” The European Union later denied funding to six of these Polish towns, with European Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, explaining that “EU values and fundamental rights must be respected by Member States and state authorities.”

Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President, said “every person in Europe is free to be who they are, live where they like, love who they want and aim as high as they want,” and that she will “continue to push for a #UnionOfEquality”.

In response to the EU’s decision to deny funding, Janusz Kowalski, the Polish Minister for State Assets, said the whole of Poland should be an “LGBT-free zone,” noting that the country’s constitution only recognises a family as between a man and a woman.

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However, there is some fighting back, as just last week, a list of writers, actors and directors penned an open letter protesting Poland’s treatment of the LGBTQ+ community.

Addressed to the EU Commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, the letter expresses “outrage at repressions directed against the LGBT+ community in Poland” and a responsibility to “voice our grave [concerns] about the future of democracy in Poland, a country with an admirable history of resistance to totalitarianism and struggle for freedom.”

And at the swearing in ceremony of Polish president, Andrzej Duda, the 10 MPs – from Poland’s “Left” grouping – all wore rainbow masks and outfits in the shades of the rainbow.

“We wanted to remind President Andrzej Duda that … in the constitution there is a guarantee of equality for all,” said Left MP Anna Maria Zukowska. “We don’t want a similar situation during his next term as there was during his campaign, when the president dehumanized LGBT people by denying them the right to be people.”

Related: New Polish minister has linked “LGBT ideology” to a “civilisation of death”