A religious leader in Ukraine who said that same-sex marriage was the cause of COVID-19 has now contracted the virus.
91 year-old Patriarch Filaret has been hospitalised and is undergoing treatment having tested positive for COVID-19.
His status was confirmed in a statement posted on Facebook last Friday:
“We inform that during planned testing, His Holiness Patriarch Filaret of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine tested positive for Covid 19. Now His Holiness Bishop is undergoing treatment at a hospital.”
In March, Filaret caused outrage when he said the pandemic was a “divine punishment”.
Discussing the outbreak on the Ukrainian national television network, Channel 4, he described it as “God’s punishment for the sins of men, the sinfulness of humanity” saying “first of all, I mean same-sex marriage.”
The patriarchate claim that over a third of Ukraine’s 42 million people follow the church.
Following the misinformation being shared on national television, the Ukrainian LGBT+ group Insight sued him.
Insight said that they would take legal action against Filaret, alleging that he made dangerous comments towards the LGBT+ community.
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.”
Maria Guryeva, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International Ukraine, said at the time: “Such statements … are very harmful because they could lead to increased attacks, aggression, discrimination and acceptance of violence against certain groups.”
Filaret has refused to accept any wrongdoing. In a statement released by The Patriarchate’s press office, they 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.”
Any link between COVID-19 and homosexuality has been publically denounced by the World Health Organisation who said that any suggestion that there is a link between the outbreak and divine intervention fuels “stigmatisation and discrimination”.
While the LGBT+ community in Ukraine face discrimination mostly due to the influence of the Eastern Orthodox Church on public perception, studies suggest that attitudes towards the LGBT+ community are becoming more accepting, in line with worldwide trends.
ILGA has ranked Ukraine 35th out of 49 European countries in terms of LGBT+ rights legislation, one spot below Italy.
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