About 18 gay and lesbian couples received a blessing from one of Copenhagen's most prominent churches on Thursday in connection with the World Outgames, the nine-day gay sporting competition taking place in Denmark.

The mass blessing by the Church of Our Lady (Vor Fure Kirke) was heavily promoted by organizers of the games which center on gay activism and culture as much as sport.

Located in the heart of the city's political and historic district, Our Lady is Denmark's National Cathedral. In 2004, Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark, married Mary Elizabeth Donaldson in the church. To celebrate the games, the church's six columns were each dressed in rainbow color fabrics.

About 10 priests from the church offered the blessing to all couples, regardless of gender, nationality or religious belief.

“It is important for the priests involved to offer a blessing to all people, but it has a special significance to offer it to people who come from countries in which their governments, and perhaps most importantly their churches, do not recognize their love,” ordained street-priest Mia Rahr Jacobsen, a spokeswoman for Copenhagen Inclusive Churches, said in an Outgames release.

The gay-inclusive blessings come as Denmark celebrates the 20th anniversary of legally recognized civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.

Jacobsen said blessings were available in Danish, English, German or sign language at the couple's request.

About 5,000 athletes are competing in more than 30 sporting events during the festival.