Thoughts and prayers

Christian cleric who blamed COVID-19 on gays contracts COVID-19

Patriarch Filaret. Via Wikimedia Commons

Patriarch Filaret, a high-ranking bishop in the Eastern Orthodox Church in Ukraine, has announced he has been hospitalized for contracting the coronavirus. Filaret’s diagnosis is of note because he had previously blamed the global pandemic on gay marriage.

The Herald-Sun reports that representatives for Filaret, 91, announced his diagnosis in a Facebook post.

“We inform that during planned testing, His Holiness Patriarch Filaret of Kiev and All Rus-Ukraine tested positive for COVID-19,” the post said. “Now His Holiness Bishop is undergoing treatment at a hospital.” Filaret is said to be suffering from pneumonia as well.

Related: Crazed pastor says coronavirus is God’s revenge for gays

Filaret made headlines in March at the outset of the global pandemic, claiming that COVID-19 is an act of divine punishment for sinful acts, mostly on the part of LGBTQ people.

Filaret labeled COVID-19 “God’s punishment for the sins of men, the sinfulness of humanity” in an interview with Ukrainian Channel 4. “First of all, I mean same-sex marriage,” he added. The comments prompted the World Health Organization to intervene, condemning Filaret’s words as misinformation, and warning that such remarks further stigmatize the LGBTQ community. Filaret refused to apologize, however, defending his words as “consistent with Ukrainian laws.”

As with much of Eastern Europe, Ukraine has seen a disturbing rise in anti-LGBTQ sentiment in recent years. Homosexual sex is legal in the country, though queer Ukrainians still face harsh stigmatization among the general public, and same-sex marriage remains illegal. A 2017 survey found that a shocking 85% of Ukrainians surveyed think marriage equality should remain illegal, with a full 20% favoring the criminalization of same-sex relationships.