“I have fallen in love .” With these words pronounced at the end of a mass, the parish priest Riccardo Ceccobelli, a 42-year-old priest from the diocese of Todi, in central Italy, announced that he has decided to hang the cassock out of love.
“My heart fell in love, I have never had the possibility to betray the promises I made. But I want to try to live this love,” explained the priest Riccardo to his superior, Bishop Gualtiero Sigismondi.
The ‘confession’, in public, in front of the parishioners and his bishop, he made during Sunday mass. The priest was suspended from service and began the procedures to return to the lay state, according to the same source.
“I thank Don Riccardo for all the service he has provided so far. And first of all, I send him my sincere wishes so that this decision, taken in full freedom as he himself told me, guarantees peace and serenity”, declared the bishop. Sigismondi.
The priest confessed that the decision was difficult because he loves and respects the Church. “I am not able to be consistent, transparent and correct with the Church as I have been until now,” he confessed, according to a statement.
According to the newspaper ‘Il Corriere della Sera’ “everyone knew” in his village, near Perugia, that Riccardo was with a woman, Laura, a catechist of the parish. From his parents’ home, where he had to move after leaving the parish, the former priest has assured the Italian media that he feels “a sense of honesty, freedom and clarity” after making one of the most important decisions of his life.
These last few days have been so hard that she has been crying, so she wears one eye covered with a bandage due to the irritation caused by crying . Now – he explains – he wants to live this love with Laura but assures that he has never betrayed “the promise” he made to the bishop “to be a priest until the end” and that he has always maintained “the obligations established by the priestly ministry”, including that of celibacy .
“We have known each other for four years, because I have been the parish priest of Massa Martana for six years and we met in the parish . But it was last September when I knew that something inside me had changed forever,” he explains in an interview to the ‘Corriere della Sera’.
“At first I did my best to keep the situation under control, I swear, I was hoping she would find a boyfriend, but with each passing day it went from bad to worse. One night I felt strongly the need to call her on the phone. I couldn’t sleep without listening. her voice.
When she answered, I said: “Hello? Hello, it’s me. Then I felt a well-being, a great peace within me. And I fell asleep. In January I presented my resignation to the bishop,” he says.
Laura is 26 years old, is a nurse and also a catechist and assures the newspaper: “We want to be able to continue in the Church, if there are rules to be respected, we want to do it, without causing a scandal.” And now the priest, as he already told the parishioners in the past Sunday: “He was at the disposal of the Church and is looking for work.”