An Italian priest who started a controversy by publicly professing his love for one of his parishioners has been barred from administering the sacraments.
Padua Bishop Antonio Mattiazzo issued a decree on Monday forbidding Father Sante Sguotti from hearing confessions in Monterosso, near the northern city of Padua. The bishop also replaced him with another priest.
Father Sguotti is rumored to have had a child with his parishioner, who is reportedly separated from her husband. The priest reportedly has the support of 800 of his parishioners. Some have made T-shirts bearing approving messages and the new priest's Masses are reported to be poorly attended in protest. Father Sguotti polled his parishioners in a "referendum" and claimed to have received the support of a vast majority.
Father Sguotti responded to the bishop's decision: "I don't know yet what I'll do," the priest told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. "As always, it's a decision that I will take with the help of my brothers and sisters of Monterosso."