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Miami priest's fans follow him to new church

The Rev. Alberto Cutie gives his first sermon Sunday at the Church of the Resurrection in Miami.

Associated Press

The Rev. Alberto Cutie gives his first sermon Sunday at the Church of the Resurrection in Miami.

BISCAYNE PARK — A popular Miami priest nicknamed "Father Oprah" said Sunday that "church is about forgiveness" during his first sermon since leaving the Roman Catholic Church to become Episcopalian amid an uproar over published photos of him kissing his girlfriend on the beach.

The Rev. Alberto Cutie (pronounced KOO-tee-ay) gave the sermon at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Miami. Episcopal priests can marry, unlike their Catholic counterparts. It will take him at least a year to become a priest in his new church.

The cozy church was overflowing with supporters, many having to stand along the aisles or lean against the walls. Many in the crowd said they were not members but came to support Cutie.

"This little church has been neglected, and membership is not great," said Jackie Fernandez, who attends another Episcopal church in the Miami area. She said within the year that will all change thanks to Cutie.

Cutie said in a TV interview in early May that he was in love with the woman in the photos and that they have been romantically involved for about two years after being friends for much longer. His girlfriend has been identified in local media as 35-year-old Ruhama Buni Canellis. He has not said if he plans to marry her, but he noted in a statement last week that as he became an Episcopalian, he "has seen the ways that many of my brothers serve God as married men."

"If love was his mistake, then I'll still support him. Love makes the world go round," said Ysset DeCarlo, 44. She brought along her 17-year-old daughter, Stephanie, who made her confession to Cutie for her confirmation.

Cutie received a standing ovation and told several jokes, quipping that "my stuff is in storage." He didn't directly address his relationship with his girlfriend.

"The spirit of God has been with me," he said. "And I'm going to tell you something: God is the only one we follow."

He also said church was about seeking God, not people, and added: "Church is about forgiveness."

Cutie has said his decision to switch was made over time, not since the photos in a Spanish-language magazine rocked South Florida's Spanish-speaking community, where he was known for his good looks and as the host of a TV show on which he gave relationship advice, earning him the "Father Oprah" moniker.

He was removed from his Miami Beach Catholic parish after the photos surfaced in early May.

His decision to switch has drawn harsh words from Archbishop John Favalora, who said he met with Cutie after the photos were published and the priest didn't mention changing churches. Favalora has admonished Cutie and Episcopal leaders in Miami.

Cutie headed the archdiocese's Radio Paz and Radio Peace broadcasts, heard throughout the Americas and in Spain.

The Cuban-American priest was born in Puerto Rico and previously hosted shows on Telemundo, the second-largest Spanish-language network in the U.S. and the Western Hemisphere. He is also a syndicated Spanish-language columnist and author of the book, Real Life, Real Love: 7 Paths to a Strong, Lasting Relationship.

. Related news

Miami Archdiocese shrinking

The Archdiocese of Miami announced Sunday that 14 struggling Catholic churches will close in the coming months.

The churches on the list have not been able to financially support themselves and have lost significant membership.

''We're looking at a shift in the Catholic population,'' said archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta, adding that the archdiocese can no longer afford to subsidize financially strained churches.

The churches to close are Resurrection, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, St. Cecilia, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Francis Xavier, St. George, St. Luke, St. Philip Neri, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Vincent de Paul, Divine Mercy Mission, St. Joseph Haitian Mission, Our Lady of Aparecia Mission and Vietnamese Apostolate. They will all merge with nearby congregations.

There are 128 parishes, missions and apostolates in the archdiocese, which serves 800,000 members in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties. — Miami Herald

Miami priest's fans follow him to new church 05/31/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 4:50pm]
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