A church leader who blamed gay marriage for the coronavirus pandemic has now fallen ill with Covid-19 himself.
In a TV interview earlier this year the Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv had claimed the outbreak was “God’s punishment for the sins of men, the sinfulness of humanity.
“First of all, I mean same-sex marriage.”
Now Patriarch Filaret, 91, is reportedly in hospital with the virus himself.
According to Ukrainian news site 112 International the preacher has also developed pneumonia.
A statement posted on Facebook on Friday confirmed he had tested positive for Covid 19 and was undergoing treatment at a hospital.
Same-sex marriages are not legally recognised in Ukraine, and travel experts warn homophobia can be widespread.
Filaret, who is a prominent religious figure in Ukraine and head of a church of around 15 million followers, was widely condemned for his comments.
In April a Ukrainian LGBT+ group sued Filaret over his comments blaming gay people for coronavirus.
Kiev-baed group Insight told the Reuters news agency at the time that it was taking legal action because his comments risked sparking discrimination.
Filaret is considered to be a hugely influential figure in Ukraine, after he led a split of the Church from the Russian Orthodox order which led to him being defrocked and excommunicated.
Insight’s head Olena Shevchenko said in April: “Our group’s aim is to show that there is no longer place for such statements for church leaders in Ukraine.
And 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.”
The World Health Organisation has issued repeated cautions against the spread of disinformation and creating stigma around the virus.
Other religious leaders have been chided for attempting to cast blame on LGBT+ people for the virus’ spread.
And United States President Donald Trump was among world leaders who attracted criticism for continuing to blame China, even as his own nation took centre stage as the world Covid-19 epicentre.
Earlier in the crisis the leader repeatedly called Covid-19 the “China virus,” referencing the initial Decenmber 2019 outbreak in Wuhan, which critics warned risked making people of Asian descent a target for abuse.