A prominent leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church who blamed gay marriages as the cause of the global coronavirus pandemic tested positive for the virus.
According to a Facebook post from the church and update on the Church website, 91-year-old Patriarch Filaret tested positive during scheduled testing and is undergoing treatment in a hospital.
“We would like to inform you that His Holiness Patriarch of Kyiv and All Russia-Ukraine Filaret, during the scheduled testing, showed a positive result on COVID-19. His Holiness is currently receiving hospital treatment. The state of health of the Patriarch is satisfactory,” read the statement on the website.
Filaret made headlines in March when he attributed gay marriages the disruptive storm of Covid-19, a virus that has infected over 146,000 Ukrainians and killed over 3,000.
In an interview with a local TV channel, Filaret called the coronavirus a “divine punishment” for same-sex marriages.
In an article by Reuters, the church leader is quoted saying that “God’s punishment for the sins of men and sinfulness of humanity. First of all, I mean same-sex marriage. This is the cause of the coronavirus.”
Filaret was later sued by LGBT-rights group InSight for his remarks which they termed as “dangerous” and could fuel attacks and increased discrimination on the minority group.
“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.
Ukrainians held a successful pride event in the county’s capital, Kyiv in June this year bring together at least 6800 people; young, old, gay and straight. The success of the march and the President calling for the security of everyone at the event painted a picture of progress for the gay community in the country.
Even though the government of Ukraine has increased its support for LGBT rights over the years, same-sex marriages are not legally recognized and activists say homophobia is still widespread.