A prominent Ukrainian church leader who had called COVID-19 pandemic God’s punishment for humanity allowing the “evil” of same-sex marriage has tested positive for the virus.
Patriarch Filaret, leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate contracted COVID-19 and was subsequently hospitalized.
“We inform you that His Holiness Patriarch Filaret of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine tested positive for COVID-19 during planned testing,” the church announced.
“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.”
The 91-year-old chuch leader has been a driving force behind anti-LGBTQ rights sentiments in the country.
In March, Filaret told a Ukrainian TV channel that the coronavirus pandemic was “God’s punishment for the sins of men, the sinfulness of humanity.”
“First of all, I mean same-sex marriage,” he stressed, “This is the cause of the coronavirus.”
Ukrainian LGBTQ rights group Insight filed a lawsuit in April following Filaret’s controversial comments calling for an apology from Filaret for disseminating false information and a retraction from him and the TV channel.
“Our aim is to show people that there is no longer place for such statements from church leaders in Ukraine,” Insight leader Olena Shevchenko said in an interview.
Maria Guryeva, spokesperson for Amnesty International Ukraine, responded to Filaret’s comments and called it “harmful.”
“Such statements … are very harmful because they could lead to increased attacks, aggression, discrimination and acceptance of violence against certain groups,” said Guryeva.
The church responded to defend Filaret’s comments and said, “As the head of the church and as a man, the Patriarch has the freedom to express his views, which are based on morality.”
Ukraine has been battling with homophobia over the years, and same-sex marriage is considered illegal in the country.