Priest quits Church for love

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(ANSA) – PERUGIA, APR 13 – An Italian priest has decided to
hang up his cassock after falling in love with a local woman
near Perugia.
    Don Riccardo Ceccobelli confessed to his parishioners at Massa
Martana at the end of Sunday Mass that he had decided to start
procedures for returning to the lay state “because my heart is
in love”.
    His parishioners said they supported his move, announced
together with the bishop of Orvieto-Todi, Msgr Gualtiero
Sigismondi, although they had had no inkling about it.
    “We were all stunned,” said local AVIS blood donation group
chief Marcello Granocchia, one of the most assiduous Mass
attendees in the small town of under 4,000 people.
    “We weren’t expecting it, but you cannot command your heart, as
the saying goes, and Don Riccardo showed he was brave and frank.
    “His choice must certainly have been a hard one”.
    The owner of the central bar in Massa Martana said her clients
had not complained about the priest’s decision, because “despite
the clamour and the amazement, people here know what an
intelligent person Don Riccardo is”.
    She said “he is someone who strikes you to the heart, and he
must have weighed this decision deeply and with great
    Luciano Perni, head of the local elderly social centre, said “we’re not interested in gossip and suppositions, and we don’t
think we can afford to judge. We are used to seeing priests in a
different way, but things have changed and Don Riccardo is a
modern priest.
    “Even priests have feelings and he was honest enough to tell it
how it is. There’s nothing wrong with it”.
    But some parishioners said they would be sad to see Don Riccardo
go, especially because of his pastoral skills and the way he has
involved young people in the Church’s activities.
    Giovanni Barlozzari, local Red Cross head, who shared many
initiatives with the priest over the years, said: “I’m sorry
that he’s leaving us, it will be a great loss to the community.
    “He is an exuberant man, always ready to roll up his sleeves and
jump into things with enthusiasm. His choice was unexpected, but
it must be respected. For me and for many others he remains a
friend that we will continue to esteem”.
    The identity of the woman who has claimed Don Riccardo’s heart
is as yet unknown. (ANSA).


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