Ukrainian church leader contracts COVID-19 after calling it 'punishment' for gay marriage

The head of a breakaway church in Ukraine who called COVID-19 a "divine punishment" for gay marriage has contracted the virus.

Mykhailo Antonovych Denysenko, also known as Patriarch Filaret, leads the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In March, when the pandemic was in its early phase, he called it "God's punishment for the sins of men, the sinfulness of humanity", Reuters reported

"I mean same-sex marriage," the 91-year-old told Ukraine's Channel 4, in case there was any doubt.

His church backed him, saying as "head of the 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 traditional family values."

Ukraine had few cases of the virus in March, but now has more than 2000 reported every day, the daily case numbers accelerating upwards since June. Nearly 3000 Ukrainians have lost their lives to the disease.

Filaret's one of the latest, being admitted to hospital in a stable condition, local paper Kyiv Post reported. 

The older you are, the more likely you are to die after contracting COVID-19. Early data from China put the mortality rate for those over 80 at around 15 percent and Italy at 20 percent.

It's not clear how Filaret contracted the disease.