updated 10/17/2007 3:33:11 PM ET 2007-10-17T19:33:11

San Francisco’s top-ranking Catholic clergyman apologized for serving Communion to two men dressed as nuns during a church service in the heart of the city’s gay community.

In a letter posted on the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s Web site, Archbishop George Niederauer said when he offered Communion to the two members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at the Oct. 7 mass, he didn’t recognize either as wearing “mock religious garb.”

He apologized for giving them the sacrament, calling it “a mistake.”

“The manner of dress and public comportment of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is deeply offensive to women religious and to the witness of holiness and Christian service that women religious have offered to the Church and to the world for centuries,” he wrote.

Members of the decades-old group dress in heavy makeup and elaborate headdresses to satirize the church and draw attention to a variety of causes, including gay rights and access to AIDS care.

Video of Niederauer giving Communion to the two activists while preaching in the city’s Castro district earlier this month has stoked a furor among some local Catholics and conservative bloggers.

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