Church Leader Who Blamed Coronavirus on Gay Marriage Contracts COVID-19

A leading church figure in Ukraine who previously described the coronavirus outbreak as "God's punishment" against gay marriage has contracted COVID-19.

Patriarch Filaret, leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate, is in a stable condition in hospital after it was announced on September 4 that he had contracted the virus.

"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."

Ukrainian website 112.International reports that the 91-year-old also has pneumonia.

Patriarch Filaret, one of Ukraine's most prominent religious figures, received widespread condemnation earlier this year when he suggested same-sex marriage was to blame for the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking during an interview with Ukrainian national TV network Channel 4, Filaret said the outbreak was "God's punishment for the sins of men, the sinfulness of humanity."

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

The comments were criticized as "dangerous" by Amnesty International Ukraine in a country which has seen widespread homophobic attacks and where same-sex unions are not legally recognized.

"Such statements…are very harmful because they could lead to increased attacks, aggression, discrimination and acceptance of violence against certain groups," Maria Guryeva, spokeswoman for Amnesty International Ukraine, told Reuters.

This photograph taken on October 22, 2018, shows Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kiev's Patriarchy speaking to an AFP journalist during an interview in Kiev. Patriarch Filaret has contracted coronavirus after previously blaming gay marriage for the outbreak. ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP/Getty

Ukrainian LGBT+ group Insight also announced in April that they would be suing the religious leader over his comments.

"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 said.

The Patriarchate's press service said in response to the outrage: "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."

There are more than 143,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ukraine, with 2,988 deaths. A total of 65,849 people have recovered from the virus in the country. In total, there have been more than 27.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the world.

This graph, provided by Statista, shows the rise of confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the word.

global covid statista