A religious leader who blamed gay people for coronavirus has now contracted the disease.
Patriarch Filaret, 91, is the head of one of Ukraine’s largest Orthodox congregations but he was heavily criticised for saying the spread of the disease was divine retribution for same sex activity, which his church sees as sinful.
He is in hospital in a stable condition after he was diagnosed after routine testing. He has also developed pneumonia according to Ukrainian news website 112.international.
The Patriarch’s was confirmed in a statement posted on Facebook.
It read: “We inform that during planned testing, His Holiness Patriarch Filaret of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine tested positive for Covid-19.”
Filaret is one of the eastern European country’s most prominent religious leaders, and claims to have 15 millions followers in its 42 million population.
But he was slammed by LGBT+ groups in March when he blamed the pandemic on gay people.
He told Ukrainian TV network Channel 4 that it was “God’s punishment for the sins of men, the sinfulness of humanity. First of all, I mean same-sex marriage”.
The following month a Ukrainian LGBT+ group said it had sued Filaret, real name Mykhailo Denysenko, for his comments.
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 Patriarchate, the organisation Filaret represents, claimed his comments were consistent with Ukrainian law.
A statement said: “As the head of a church and as a man, the Patriarch has the freedom to express his views, which are based on morality.
“The Patriarchate reserved the right to bring counterclaims against those who sought to abuse judicial protections to encroach on Ukraine’s family values.”
Patriarch Filaret is not the only religious leader to blame Covid-19 on gay people since it first spread in China.
Prominent leaders in the US and Israel have also claimed the virus is “divine intervention” in response to gay rights increasing.
The World Health Organisation has condemned the spread of misinformation, adding that it fuels discrimination.