Church leader who claims coronavirus is ‘God’s punishment’ for same-sex marriage tests positive. He’s 91 years old

Church leader who blamed equal marriage for coronavirus tests positive

A Ukrainian religious leader who claimed coronavirus was God’s “divine punishment” for same-sex marriage has shockingly contracted the disease himself.

Patriarch Filaret, 91, is head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv, one of the country’s largest congregations. He was hospitalised last week after testing positive for coronavirus, and has also developed pneumonia.

His diagnosis was confirmed in a statement posted to Facebook on Friday. “We inform that during planned testing, his holiness patriarch Filaret of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine tested positive for COVID-19,” it read.

“Now his holiness bishop is undergoing treatment at a hospital.”

The diagnosis may have come as a surprise to his holiness, given that he previously cast blame for coronavirus on LGBT+ people and same-sex marriage.

As the virus spread across Europe in March, Filaret told Ukrainian national TV network Channel 4 that the pandemic was “God’s punishment for the sins of men, the sinfulness of humanity”.

“First of all, I mean same-sex marriage,” he added.

Filaret’s declaration attracted heavy criticism from the Ukrainian LGBT+ community, who feared it would fuel anti-LGBT+ hatred among his 15 million followers at a time when the health crisis was already stoking tensions.

“Such statements are very harmful because they could lead to increased attacks, aggression, discrimination and acceptance of violence against certain groups,” said Maria Guryeva, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International Ukraine.

On 13 April the advocacy group Insight sued the patriarch for his comments – the first such case in an ex-Soviet nation.

Insight’s head Olena Shevchenko told Reuters: “Our aim is to show people that there is no longer place for such statements from church leaders in Ukraine.”

They demanded an for disseminating false information from both the Patriarch and the TV channel that aired the interview, but Filaret refused to accept any wrongdoing.

The patriarchate’s press service said in 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.”

He is one of many religious leaders to blame coronavirus on the LGBT+ community, prompting the World Health Organisation to issue a warning about the spread of misinformation.