A Ukrainian church leader who had claimed COVID-19 pandemic is a result of gay marriage and that God is punishing the "sinfulness of humanity", has tested positive for coronavirus. Patriarch Filaret, leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate, was hospitalised after his diagnosis this month, but remains in stable condition.
"We inform you that His Holiness Patriarch Filaret of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine tested positive for COVID-19 during planned testing," the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate said in a statement. "Now His Holiness Patriarch is undergoing treatment at a hospital. The Patriarch's state of health is satisfactory. We ask for holy prayers for the health and recovery of Patriarch Filaret."
According to a local newspaper 112.International, the 91-year-old religious leader has also been diagnosed with pneumonia.
Outbreak a result of gay marriage
Patriarch Filaret is one of the most influential religious leaders in Ukraine with over 15 million followers. But he was caught up in a controversy after his statements in March irked the LGBT+ community. The church leader had blamed the coronavirus outbreak on same-sex marriage.
"God's punishment for the sins of men, the sinfulness of humanity," he had said about the outbreak, speaking to Ukrainian national TV network Channel 4. "First of all, I mean same-sex marriage."
Patriarch Filaret's comments instantly drew a lot of criticism. Same-sex marriage is considered illegal in Ukraine and the country has been battling with homophobia.
"Such statements ... are very harmful because they could lead to increased attacks, aggression, discrimination and acceptance of violence against certain groups," Maria Guryeva, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International Ukraine, was quoted as saying in response to his comments.
"Our aim is to show people that there is no longer place for such statements from church leaders in Ukraine," said Insight's head Olena Shevchenko.
Defending Patriarch Filaret's remarks, the press service issued a statement: "As the head of the church and as a man, the Patriarch has the freedom to express his views, which are based on morality. The Patriarchate reserved the right to bring counterclaims against those who sought to abuse judicial protections to encroach on Ukraine's traditional family values."