Patriarch Filaret, the 91-year-old Ukrainian Orthodox church leader who called coronavirus God’s punishment for same-sex marriage, has now tested positive for COVID-19 himself. Read on for the full story.
Religious Leader Who Called COVID-19 God’s Punishment for Same-Sex Marriage Tests Positive
Patriarch Filaret (secular name is Mykhailo Antonovych Denysenko) is the leader of one of the Ukraine’s largest denominations of Christians. Back in March of 2020, he made headlines for calling coronavirus God’s punishment for the “sinfulness of humanity; first of all, I mean same-sex marriage” during a television interview. Now, he’s tested positive for COVID-19 himself during routine testing.
I“We inform you that His Holiness Patriarch Filaret of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine tested positive for Covid-19 during planned testing. Now His Holiness Patriarch is undergoing treatment at a hospital. The Patriarch’s state of health is satisfactory.”
Human rights groups condemned Patriach Filaret’s words
Right after the Patriach’s controversial interview, LGBTQ+ rights groups announced plans to sue the Filaret for promoting discrimination and hate speech, according to The Independent. Olena Shevchenko, of the Insight, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation,
“Our aim is to show people that there is no longer place for such statements from church leaders in Ukraine,”
Same-sex marriage is not legal in the Ukraine. However, while the Orthodox churches remain very hostile towards gay people in general, a 2017 survey found that more than half (56%) of its citizens support equal rights for LGBTQ+ people.
Human rights group Amnesty International also condemned the Patriach’s comments. They warned that such hate speech could lead to more violence against LGBTQ+ and minority groups. Their warnings have merit. Right after Donald Trump started calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus,” hate crimes against Asian-Americans spiked significantly.
Church threatens to counter-sue
The church press, on the other hand, defended the Patriarch’s words, stating that they were not against the law.
“As the head of the church and as a man, the Patriarch has the freedom to express his views, which are based on morality.”
They also threatened to counter-sue groups who attempted to “encroach on Ukrainian traditional family values through the courts.”
According to a statement issued on September 9th, Filaret is currently in stable condition. The church says,
The Kyiv Patriarchate received a very large number of messages and calls with words of support to His Holiness Patriarch Filaret of Kyiv and All Rus’-Ukraine and wishes him a speedy recovery. His Holiness Patriarch Filaret is especially grateful to everyone who shows his love and support in prayers for his health. Today, the state of health of Patriarch Filaret is stable, treatment continues. We ask you to continue to pray for His Holiness Patriarch Filaret so that the All-Merciful and Almighty Lord God will heal the Patriarch and heal him from his illness.”