Ukrainian Cleric Who Called COVID 'Punishment' for Gay Marriage is Now Hospitalized

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday September 8, 2020

Honorary Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine Filaret, a prominent cleric in that faith tradition, made headlines last March for declaring that the global COVID-19 pandemic is "God's punishment" for same-sex couples having marriage equality in some countries.

But that same cleric has now been hospitalized with COVID-19, reports U.K. newspaper The Evening Standard.

The 91-year-old religious leader is one of Ukraine's foremost religious figures, the newspaper reported, with "around 15 million followers."

The Evening Standard recalled that in March, as COVID-19 was spreading around the world, Filaret opined during a televised interview that the pandemic was "God's punishment for the sins of men, the sinfulness of humanity. First of all, I mean same-sex marriage."

The comment created controversy, but a press release from the Patriarchate of Ukraine defended the 91-year-old cleric, saying that Filarert enjoys "the right to bring counterclaims against those who sought to abuse judicial protections to encroach on Ukraine's traditional family values."

Filaret's diagnosis and hospitalization were reported by the Ukrainian news outlet

The pandemic has emboldened a number of autocratic government leaders to crack down on dissent and erode civil rights, as well as prompting hardcore faith leaders of various traditions to issue proclamations that COVID-19 reflects divine displeasure. Last month a Muslim cleric in Bosnia-Herzegovina took to Facebook to express gratitude that the global COVID-19 pandemic has meant the cancellation of what would have been only the second Pride parade in Sarajevo.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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