A church leader who blamed the emergence of coronavirus on same-sex marriage has now contracted the disease.
Patriarch Filaret, 91, is in hospital in a stable condition after he was diagnosed with Covid 19 during routine testing.
The Ukrainian website 112.international has reported that he has also developed pneumonia.
Confirming his diagnosis on Friday, a statement posted on Facebook said: ‘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.’
As the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv, Filaret is one of the country’s most prominent religious figures and has 15 million followers.
He was heavily criticised by LGBT groups for his comments about coronavirus back in March.
In a TV interview he said that the outbreak was ‘God’s punishment for the sins of men, the sinfulness of humanity. First of all, I mean same-sex marriage.’
At the time, Maria Guryeva, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International Ukraine, said: ‘Such statements … are very harmful because they could lead to increased attacks, aggression, discrimination and acceptance of violence against certain groups.’
Kiev-based group Insight said it was taking legal action against him because his comments risked fuelling hatred and discrimination.
A spokeswoman for the group told the Reuters press agency they wanted an apology for disseminating false information from both the Patriarch and the TV channel that aired the interview.
Several other religious figures around the world have blamed the virus on LGBT people since it first emerged in China late last year.
Prominent figures in the US and a rabbi in Israel have claimed coronavirus is ‘divine intervention’ in response to LGBT rights.
The World Health Organisation has condemned this spread of misinformation, warning it fuels stigmatisation and discrimination.
Representatives of Filaret have previously defended his remarks, saying they were ‘consistent with Ukrainian laws’ and that he’s ‘entitled to express his views.’
Homophobia is widespread in Ukraine and same-sex marriages are not legally recognised.
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