A Catholic priest in São Paulo state, Brazil was excommunicated after resigning from his duties to protest against the church's anti-gay stance.
‘Father Roberto Francisco Daniel can no longer celebrate the divine rite because he has been excommunicated,’ read a statement from the Bauru diocese in Sao Paulo state.
The 48-year-old priest, who renounced his church duties over the weekend, after the Catholic Church demanded he retract a pro LGBT rights YouTube video he posted and ‘renounce’ his ‘error’.
The Church branded the cleric as a sinner and accused him of ‘heresy’ and ‘schism’.
However, Francisco Daniel, did not accept the demand and answered in interview with the daily Folha de São Paulo: ‘If you think it’s a sin, then I have always been and always will be a sinner.
‘Who said that dogma cannot be discussed?
‘For me it has become impossible to live the Gospel in an institution where freedom of thought and freedom of expression are not respected.’
Known affectionately as ‘Father Beto’, to his parishioners, the former priest announced on a YouTube video that the Church should accept all loving relationships.
‘We should simply be considered as gendered beings and not as “homosexuals” or “bisexuals” since love can spring at all these levels,’ said Father Beto in his video.
Over a thousand of Bauru's faithful packed Father Beto’s church on Sunday morning (28 April) to attend a farewell Mass, where he announced his decision.
‘For Jesus Christ prejudice did not exist.
‘Jesus loved human beings regardless of social status, race, and sexuality," the preacher said.
The farewell Mass at St. Anthony's Church in Jardim Bela Vista, a traditional neighborhood of Bauru, in São Paulo state, was packed with people some standing outside it just to greet Father Beto in support.
The priest was given a standing ovation at the end of the Mass and cheered when he walked down the hall out of the church for the last time.
Many worshipers, from all ages and walks in life, wept and then lined up to show their support.
77 year-old Giovanni and his 70 year-old wife Lucia Dermengi, said they supported the father.
‘He was a reformer and the church needs this’, said Lucia.
Fabio Said, a 30 year-old architect, said that the priest attracted many young people to the church who found that they could communicate and be heard in his Church.
‘And now? Faith continues, but it's hard,’ he said as he left the Mass.
6 year-old Peter Popoff Motta and his mother Carla Motta also stated their support of the priest.
The child stood in line and gave the farewell gift Father Beto at the church’s door.
Father Beto has left his post after serving 14 years of priesthood.
Watch Father Beto's YouTube video message (in Portuguese):