Religious Leader Who Blamed Gay Marriage For Covid-19 Now Has Covid-19
Patriarch Filaret, 91, is in hospital having tested positive for Covid-19. He is now undergoing treatment for the virus.
A statement was posted on Facebook on Friday that confirmed the diagnosis.
It read: "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."
Back in March, the religious leader said that the outbreak of the coronavirus was a 'divine punishment'.
Speaking on Ukrainian national TV network Channel 4 at the time, he described the epidemic as 'God's punishment for the sins of men, the sinfulness of humanity'.
Filaret added: "First of all, I mean same-sex marriage."
The patriarchate says that it currently has more than 15 million followers, just over a third of Ukraine's 42 million-strong population.
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When Filaret made the controversial comment, Ukrainian LGBT+ group Insight sued him.
Based in Kiev, Insight said in April that it would be taking legal action against Filaret, accusing him of making damaging comments towards the gay and lesbian community.
Insight's head Olena Shevchenko told Reuters: "Our aim is to show people that there is no longer a 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."
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 World Health Organisation has publicly denounced any link between homosexuality and coronavirus. It says that any suggestion of a link between the pandemic and divine intervention fuels 'stigmatisation and discrimination'.
Homophobia is common in Ukraine, with same-sex marriage still illegal. Homosexuality was only decriminalised in 1991.
A study on LGBT rights in the country says: "Although Ukraine was the first of the former Soviet republics to repeal criminal sanctions for consensual homosexual intercourse between adults, many Ukrainians still regard homosexuality as deviant behaviour, and public tolerance has even decreased in recent years."
Featured Image Credit: PA
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