Prominent Ukrainian church leader Patriarch Filaret has contracted coronavirus, after claiming the disease is “God’s punishment” for same-sex marriage.
The 91-year-old, who heads the Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s Kiev Patriarchate, is currently in a stable condition in hospital, his church announced.
“We inform that during planned testing, His Holiness Patriarch Filaret of Kiev and All Rus-Ukraine tested positive for COVID-19,” they wrote on Facebook
“Now His Holiness Bishop is undergoing treatment at a hospital.
“We ask you to continue to pray for His Holiness Patriarch Filaret, so that the All-Merciful and Almighty Lord God will heal the Patriarch.”
Local website 112 Ukraine reported Filaret was suffering pneumonia.
Filaret heads one of Ukraine’s largest Orthodox congregations. He caused controversy in March when he blamed the coronavirus on same-sex marriage.
He told Ukraine’s Channel 4 the pandemic is “God’s punishment for the sins of men, the sinfulness of humanity”.
“First of all, I mean same-sex marriage,” Filaret said.
Same-sex marriage remains illegal in Ukraine.
Ukraine LGBTIQ activists sued church leader for comments
Local LGBTIQ group Insight announced in April they were suing Patriarch Filaret for spreading false information.
“Our aim is to show people that there is no longer place for such statements from church leaders in Ukraine,” Insight’s head Olena Shevchenko told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
A spokesperson for Filaret defended the comments as “based on morality” and responding to those “encroaching on Ukraine’s traditional family values”.
The coronavirus has killed nearly 3,000 Ukrainians and infected over 140,000 people in the country in total.
Filaret is one of several other religious figures around the world to wield the coronavirus pandemic to attack LGBTIQ rights.
The World Health Organisation urged against the spread of such misinformation, warning it sparks “stigmatisation and discrimination”.
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